Grow Financial Federal Credit Union
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May 13, 2021

Watch Out for These Digital Scams: Phishing Scams and P2P Fraud

We’re 100% sure that if you’re reading this, you use the internet. That means you’re a potential target for some of the many prevalent online scams affecting consumers in the digital age. As your financial institution, we want to do everything we can to keep you, your money and your personal information safe from fraud. Watch out for these two increasingly common methods scammers can use to target you: phishing scams via email and text messages and exploitation of peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps, such as Venmo, Cash App and Zelle®.

Phishing scams: Don’t get hooked.

As far as electronic fraud goes, phishing is one of the most successful plays in the scammer playbook. According to the FBI’s IC3, phishing fraud was one of the most common forms of fraud in 2020, with more than 241,342 individual victims.1   

Phishing is an online scam that targets your personal information. Scammers send fake emails or text messages impersonating a real entity — like your bank, utility service provider or insurance company — designed to get you to click on malicious links. Once you’ve clicked, they might gather your personal information, download viruses or other malware onto your computer, or get you to complete a fraudulent transaction. The Anti-Phishing Working Group, Inc. (APWG) reported that phishing attacks against financial institutions were among the most prevalent scams in 2020.2 You’re probably wondering: How can I avoid phishing scams?

Keep yourself safer online with these tips:

  • Only open emails or text messages from trusted senders.
  • Always hover over links before clicking so you can see a preview of the real destination. Don’t click if it seems suspect.
  • Never input personal information, such as bank account details, Social Security numbers or passwords, onto websites, except those you trust to be secure.
  • If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary.
  • When in doubt, call the company directly to verify the authenticity of any email, rather than clicking potentially risky links.

P2P Payments: Watch out for this new type of fraud.

Popular P2P apps, like Venmo, Cash App, PayPal and Zelle®, are convenient targets for scammers. Not only are P2P scams simple to execute, they’re also new to the marketplace, so customers aren’t as aware of them. These quick-service payment apps are rife with opportunity for fraud, and they don’t usually have the zero liability guarantees that consumers expect from their credit cards and their financial institutions. Usually, once your money is gone from these apps, it’s gone for good.

Avoid these new P2P scams:

Mystery money
With this scam, a stranger “accidentally” sends you money, then asks you to send them the money back. The problem is: the scammer added the money to their account using a stolen credit card or bank account, so Venmo (or whichever P2P you used) will flag the transaction as fraud eventually. Then, Venmo will take those funds out of your account, or, if you’ve already sent the money back to the sender, hold you responsible for that amount (and potentially block your account too).

Hidden credit card fraud
Let’s say you’ve listed an item for sale on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. The scammer would pay you money using Venmo (or another P2P service), pick up the item, then hit the road never to be heard from again. Once Venmo catches on that the funds were fraudulent, they can flag the transaction and take the money from your Venmo balance or hold you responsible to pay it back. Then you’ve got no money and no item. No fun.

Four ways to be careful when using P2P apps:

  • Only send or receive money from people you know personally.
  • Always confirm that you’re transacting with the correct person by verifying the phone number, because anyone could impersonate someone you know by simply changing their name and photo.
  • Be cautious about using these apps to receive payment for goods or services.
  • Call the P2P company’s customer service directly to resolve erroneous transactions, rather than sending money back to strangers.

Since they lack comprehensive fraud protection, we do not recommend using P2P apps for transactions with strangers. When in doubt, credit cards (or cash, if accepting payment in person) are safer payment methods.

Want to learn more about avoiding other types of scams? Visit our Education page and sort by Security Education to read more.

1Internet Crime Report: 2020. Accessed April 26, 2021.
2CAPWG Fourth Quarter 2020 Phishing Report. Accessed April 26, 2021.

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