It was not surprising to me that a PayPal payment request appeared on my app. It was a payment request from PayPal that I saw, and I immediately knew what it meant.
A stranger asked me to send $699 to them in order to receive a refund.
I am not the only one concerned about security when using peer to peer payment apps : A Pew Research Center poll found that 13% of those who used payment apps or websites (including PayPal, Venmo and Zelle) have sent money to scammers.
Fraud prevention specialists recommend these strategies for keeping your money safe.
Send money only to people you are familiar with
Peer-to-peer payments apps are generally meant to be used between friends, not strangers. You risk fraud if you send money to strangers using these apps.
You shouldn’t send money until you have met the people you are sending it to in person. These apps can be convenient, safe, and efficient if you do this, says Paul Benda. Benda is senior vice president of operational risks and cybersecurity at American Bankers Association. This trade association represents the banking industry.
In higher-risk situations , use cash and credit cards
To exchange money with someone you don’t know, cash or credit card is the best way. Axton Betz Hamilton, assistant professor at South Dakota State University and the author of “The Less People Knew About Us,” is a memoir about identity theft.
For example, credit cards come with fraud protection. She says, “I want that protection so I don’t use those apps.”
Although stolen cash is more difficult to recover, it can still be covered by renters and homeowners insurance policies.
Avoid unsolicited calls, texts and calls
Scam artists often send scammers a text message, phone call, or other type of message asking you to send money. They may claim that you are due a refund, late on a bill, or both.
Joel Williquette is senior vice president of operational risks policy at Independent Community Bankers of America. This trade group represents community banks. This includes sending emails that look almost identical to legitimate banking emails.
A cybercriminal may pretend to be the IRS or FBI, and ask you for a peer to peer payment to settle a debt. But Williquette states that legitimate agencies will never text you or call you with urgent money requests.
He said that they would typically send you a letter and wouldn’t ask for payment via gift cards or apps.
A fraudulent payment request made via a peer to peer payment app is usually for a small amount of money and may even appear like it’s coming from a friend,” Eva Velasquez (president and CEO) of the Identity Theft Resource Center (a non-profit organization).
Velasquez encourages people to verify their requests by double-checking that they are sending money to the right person. He also points out that it is easier to fall for frauds when you are distracted or multitasking.
Improve your cyber hygiene
To keep your financial accounts safe, Velasquez suggests that you enable two-factor authentication by adding a pin lock on your phone and creating unique passwords at least 12 characters in length.
She also suggests that you set your app privacy settings so that only the most important information is made public.
Flag fraud attempts
PayPal states that you must cancel any payment requests, such as the one I received, without having to pay. You can also take a picture and send it to [email protected]. PayPal states that you must not reply, open attachments, download them, or call any number in the request.
PayPal advises that you change your password immediately if you have accidentally disclosed financial or personal information to scammers. You should also alert your bank to report any unauthorised payments to PayPal. Report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission, which is a government website that shares information and assists law enforcement.
In my case, I did what was recommended and cancelled the payment request. The scammer never contacted me again. I have taken extra security measures to ensure that I can continue to use PayPal and other payment apps. I also know what I should do if I receive a payment request from someone else.
This article is by NerdWallet. It was originally published in The Associated Press.