These Venmo scams work so well because the scammers know a few things that you don’t. They are taking advantage of your assumption that because transacting on Venmo is simple and quick, it is also always safe. They are gambling that in Venmo’s murky realm of “merchant transactions,” the businesslike act of “sending your roommate half the rent” might be kosher, but collecting their money for “event tickets and Craigslist items” probably won’t be. Most importantly, they are exploiting the little-known fact that funds flickering onto our phone screens with a perky green plus sign and a couple emojis are not really ours as instantaneously as they may seem. In short, these scammers are slipping into the gap between what Venmo has taught us to expect and the reality of what both the company and America’s underlying financial infrastructure are actually able to handle, and they’re blowing it wide open.
“These are people who fit the profile of someone who would Venmo for a drink that they bought me,” she said. “This behavior existed before Venmo; now there is just an easy utility for it.”
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