5 Common Cash App Scams and How to Avoid Them
Fraudsters and thieves are using Cash App to steal people's money, raising questions about how secure this contactless payment app really is.
Is Cash App safe?
Money-transfer apps like Cash App have grown in popularity as people ditch cash post-coronavirus—but scams on these apps are rising, too. While fraudsters are sneaky and often convincing, their scams also tend to share common traits that make them easier to spot. Here are the risks of using Cash App and how to avoid the common Cash App scams that could leave you, your information, and your money vulnerable to criminals. To protect your financial and personal information from scammers, learn how to spot phishing emails, eBay scams, area code phone scams, phone call scams, and online shopping scams, too.
Cash App’s safety features
In most cases, Cash App is a safe and convenient way to transfer money to friends, family members, and businesses. “Cash App is not inherently more or less safe than other legitimate peer-to-peer payment apps such as Venmo and Zelle,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. Cash App even offers several security features that other money-transfer apps do not, including an AI-driven function that flags potential scams, text messages alerting customers of an unusual login attempt, and a prompt requiring users to confirm a money transfer to someone who is not on their contact list. Rest assured that there is nothing wrong with using Cash App to transfer cash in a pinch, especially for the times when you should never use your credit card for payment.
Risks of using Cash App
Although Cash App offers safety precautions to protect its customers, “how users engage with the technology can make all the difference,” according to Velasquez. Scammers often take advantage of people who store money on Cash App like a bank or are willing to transfer money to strangers. What’s more, transfers through Cash App are not protected in the case of fraud or theft, unlike payments on a traditional credit or debit card. Since Cash App treats money like cash, it’s almost impossible to get the money back once it is transferred. You are better off learning how to spot these prevalent Cash App scams before they steal your money. FYI, other contactless payment apps including Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Venmo are also vulnerable to scams.
The most common Cash App scams
1. Impersonating customer support
Cash App does not offer live customer support and encourages users to report any issues, including fraud and scams, through the app instead. However, many Cash App users have been fooled by scammers who impersonate Cash App employees through texts, phone calls, or social media direct messages. These thieves create phony websites with fake Cash Support phone numbers, which victims believe are real when they appear in a Google search. According to the Better Business Bureau, Cash App customers across the country have been conned out of thousands of dollars by scammers who claimed to be Cash App representatives.
When you call customer support, beware of anyone who asks for personal information like your Cash App PIN or sign-in code. “Cash Support will never ask you to provide your sign-in code, PIN, or other sensitive information like your bank account information,” according to Cash App’s website. “Cash Support will also never require you to send a payment, make a purchase, download any application for “remote access,” or complete a “test” transaction of any kind.” Adam Gordon, an Edutainer at ITProTV, recommends going straight to Cash App’s website to find the customer support phone number or reporting the issue through the app instead.
2. Fake #CashAppFriday offers
Every Friday, Cash App holds an official sweepstakes where customers can win cash prizes. But there are also dozens of fake Cash App Friday events on Instagram, Facebook, and other social networks using the official #CashAppFriday promotional hashtag. Scammers will create fraudulent raffles and message users asking them to transfer a few dollars via Cash App or share their login credentials for a chance to win. Users may send the money or info, but they never win anything in return.
If you want to participate in the official Cash App sweepstakes, Gordon advises double-checking that the link to enter comes from the verified Cash App Twitter account, which has a blue checkmark beside the username. You should also steer clear of these other organizations and brands that scammers impersonate most often.
3. Phony COVID-19 programs
The coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for cybercriminals looking to swindle Cash App users out of their money. In fact, complaints of fraud on Cash App have increased a whopping 472 percent during the pandemic, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Some fraudsters create fake grant or relief programs that ask for payment or advanced fees to receive benefits, while others advertise phony lottery or giveaway scams that claim you’ve won a prize for being vaccinated, Velasquez says.
While “it sounds plausible because there are legitimate lotteries in several states,” she says, there is one major red flag: These scammers will ask for identity credentials and financial information, as well as request taxes or fees to be paid upfront. If an offer seems fishy, Velasquez suggests confirming with the organization through their official phone number. Think twice before providing personal account information to someone claiming to be a state or federal government employee, which is also a sign you might be falling for these other coronavirus scams.
4. Cash flipping
There is one rule of thumb when it comes to Cash App scams: If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is, according to Gordon. For example, one popular scam on social media promises to increase or “flip” your money when you send them money via Cash App first. If you send them $10 to $1000, they claim, they will send you back double or triple the original sum. In another common Cash App scam, you are asked to send a certain amount of money in return for a higher rate from other people participating in the circle. Called a money circle, cash wheel, or pyramid scheme, these scams are designed so that you never receive any money back.
To protect yourself from getting tricked by one of these scams, “your first line of defense is to not send money to people that you do not know,” Gordon says. Keep your transactions only between people you know and trust—no matter how good of a deal it seems. Learn how to spot fake donation scams, too.
5. Selling expensive items through Cash App
Whether you’re hoping to score a purebred pup, a lease on a new apartment, or a concert ticket for a sold-out show, you should never agree to pay for it via Cash App. Scammers know that Cash App doesn’t provide buyer protection, so they are more likely to ask their victims to pay for fake items through the app. Once the unsuspecting users pay the fees, the fraudsters will disappear without handing over the items.
Cash App recommends not sending a payment to someone you don’t know and without verifying the item’s legitimacy. If you think you’ve been scammed on Cash App, you can dispute the charge through the app by selecting the transaction and tapping on “…” —> Need Help & Cash App Support —> Dispute this Transaction. The Cash App team will investigate your claim, but there is no guarantee you will get your money back, Gordon says. Your money will be safer if you limit your transactions to your close friends and family members or carry a few bucks in your wallet for the times when it’s better to pay in cash.
What to do if you think you’ve been scammed
If you think you are a victim of a Cash App scam, you should immediately report the incident to Cash Support and cut off contact with the scammer, according to Cash App’s website. Velasquez suggests alerting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) if you lost money. You should also take steps to change your Cash App account password and protect your other accounts, including choosing a unique passphrase with 12 characters or more, using a different password for each account, and saving all passwords on a password manager. Invest in one of the most secure phones to prevent security problems going forward.
- Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center
- Adam Gordon, Edutainer at ITProTV
- Cash App. “Avoid Scams and Keep Your Money Safe with Cash App”
- Better Business Bureau. “BBB Scam Alert: Scammers trick victims into sending money through CashApp”
- Federal Trade Commission. “Making mobile payments? Protect yourself from scams”