You should know about Accidental Payment Scams that can occur through instant money-sending apps, like Venmo, Cash App and Zelle.

What the Scam Looks Like

It starts with an unexpected payment from an unknown person. Your Venmo may pop up and say any number of off-the-wall things:

  • $600 sent for vintage wedding dress
  • $300 recv’d for Adult Svcs Rendered
  • $250 for Imagine Dragons tickets @ Jiffy Lube Live

Next, you’ll get a follow-up email or text:

Accidental Payment Scams
Don’t Do It!

This is a variation of the Overpayment Scam. They’re counting on your moral code to convince you to help them out. While it may seem easy to send that money over to the poor stranger, hold your horses and slow your roll! This was no mistake:

What To Do

  • Nothing. The best course of action here is to do nothing. Don’t send this stranger any money. Don’t reply to their messages. You don’t know them, you don’t owe them anything. Not even common courtesy. If you stay your hand long enough (a few days?), Zelle or Venmo will reverse or remove the “payment”.
  • You may also contact Venmo or your bank (for Zelle concerns). Cash App has some info and contact methods on this site. They may be interested to know about the accidental payment, and they may instruct you on other methods for dealing with it that won’t put your money at risk.

If You Were Tricked

When a person falls for the Accidental Payment Scam, they cooperate with the requests and send money back to the person in their DMs. They get a big Thank-You in return and some warm Good Samaritan feelings. But those only last a few days and then comes a nasty surprise.

The app company flags the the original “accidental payment” transaction as fraudulent, and reverses it. (It was likely made off of a stolen credit card.) They’ll deduct that amount from the victim’s account. It is as if it never happened.

But the app company will uphold the follow-up transaction. That’s where the victim sent money to the stranger. Seen as a wholly separate transaction, initiated by the victim, the bank will maintain that it is completely legitimate. They usually will not reverse such transactions. That money cannot be clawed back.

If you fell victim to this scheme, I am very sorry for your loss. Even though you cannot get your money back, you should still notify Venmo/CashApp/your bank of the fraud. They will want to track the details, and maybe one day make all of this a safer process.