Mobile payment apps such as Venmo, Cash App and Zelle are extremely popular, but have become an easy avenue for scammers looking to make a quick profit.
Many of these scams start on Instagram, with photos appearing to indicate a glamorous lifestyle and claims of a “secret” stock market strategy that can turn an investment of a few hundred dollars into thousands, almost instantly.
Once a victim contacts this scammer, they will be instructed to send money—around $500 is a common amount—using one a mobile payment app. Sometimes the scammer will respond with an attempt to get another payment, to cover “taxes” or “fees,” but in every case, the victim never gets one cent back from their “investment.”
There are a few things to remember. First, you should never invest with any unlicensed, unknown person or company. Investment always carries the risk of losing money, so anyone selling “guaranteed” results (or “secrets,” “miracles” or “tricks”) is lying.
Second, mobile payment apps are meant for transferring money when you know the person you’re paying. It’s the same as wiring money in this way: send it to a stranger and it’s gone forever, with no way to get it back.
Finally, it is incredibly easy to create an Instagram presence filled with young, glamorous-looking people standing in front of expensive cars or large houses. These photos can be purchased from stock photography websites and altered to suit their needs, or sometimes the scammer will simply trespass on private property to get pictures of himself in these scenarios. Never trust anyone you don’t know online, and never send money to a stranger in any situation.