Scammers target Venmo, Paypal, Zelle applications; Manhattan DA calls for crack down

Venmo, PayPal, and Zelle are almost just as popular as the faces on the dollars they’re moving.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is calling for meetings following a troubling trend: scammers exploiting the apps to gain access to users' bank accounts.

In many cases, DA Bragg says tens of thousands can be lost in a matter of seconds.

He’s calling on Venmo, Zelle, and Cashapp to enhance security by adding a second and separate password for access, imposing spending limits in terms of dollar amount and number of daily transactions, and adding required wait times for a secondary verification of up to a day for larger transactions.

"Bragg is spot on in asking the owners of those companies directly. Let's do something about it," said Paul Oster with Better Qualified.

But Oster isn't placing the burden on the apps or DA Bragg to protect consumers. Customers must do their part he says.

"If they can't get to the apps, the crime is over. Right? They don’t really want to hurt you. They’re looking for money. This was always a business transaction," Oster shared.

Cash App

He recommends customers ensure their apps aren't accessible to strangers on their phone in the first place."Hide those apps in a vault folder in a password-protected file and folder on your phone, something that doesn’t say cash apps," said Oster.

He’s suggesting customers sign up for 2-step authentication if possible.

"I know it takes an extra 30 seconds, but the juice is worth the squeeze in this case," he added.

But customers who don't want to be robbed of their convenience or their money must remain vigilant.

Early Warning Services, LLC, the network operator of Zelle shared a statement regarding DA Bragg’s request saying:

"We are aware of isolated criminal incidents described in the Manhattan District Attorney’s letter. Providing a safe and reliable service to consumers is the top priority of Early Warning Services, LLC, the network operator of Zelle®, and our 2,100 participating banks and credit unions.  As a result of our continued efforts to build on Zelle’s strong foundation of security, less than one-tenth of one percent of transactions are reported as fraud or scams, and that percentage keeps getting smaller."

A PayPal spokesperson shared:

"PayPal and Venmo take the safety and security of our customers and their information very seriously. In addition to proactively leveraging sophisticated fraud detection tools, manual investigations, and partnering closely with law enforcement agencies to protect our customers against common scams, we have several options in place to enable enhanced layers of security and protection directly within our apps."

A Cash App spokesperson responded:

"Cash App continues to be committed to building trust with our customers and investing in areas that help build a safe and secure platform. We work proactively and diligently to safeguard our customer’s money and mitigate against the risk of fraud on our platform through a combination of preventative controls like multi-factor authentication, account transaction limits, fraud detection, and consumer education. We also partner with law enforcement agencies to detect and combat criminal activity."