You should know about the Accidental Payment Scam 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

And then you’ll see some follow-up email or text:

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. And it would be so easy to send that money over to the poor stranger… but hold your horses, because 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 sit still long enough (few days?), the accidental payment will be reversed or removed.
  • You are also welcome to 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 this scam, they believe the messages 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 the nasty surprise comes.

The original “accidental payment” transaction gets flagged as fraudulent, and is reversed. (It was likely made off of a stolen credit card.) That amount is removed from the victim’s account. It is as if it never happened.

The follow-up transaction, where the victim sent money to the stranger, is upheld. That is seen as a wholly separate transaction, initiated by the victim. The bank will maintain that it is completely legitimate. They usually do not reverse those transactions, and that money is gone, gone, gone.

If you were tricked in this way, I am very sorry for your loss. You should still notify Venmo/CashApp/your bank of the fraud, so that they can track the details, and maybe one day make all of this a safer process.