Fraudsters are stealing people's money via Cash App scams, raising questions about how secure this contactless payment app really is
Money-transfer apps like Cash App have grown in popularity, allowing users to instantly send and receive money. But scams on these apps are rising too. While fraudsters are sneaky and often convincing, Cash App scams also tend to share common traits that make them easier to spot.
“Consumers flocked to Cash App because it was easy to use and convenient, but unfortunately, the scammers quickly followed suit,” says Alex Hamerstone, advisory solutions director at cybersecurity company TrustedSec. “It is vital for consumers to educate themselves on the tricks and techniques scammers are using and be on the lookout for potential red flags.”
Keep reading to learn the risks of using Cash App and how to avoid the common Cash App scams that could leave your information, online security and money vulnerable to criminals. To protect your financial and personal information from scammers, learn how to spot common online scams on other payment apps, like Venmo, Zelle and PayPal, 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 Identity Theft Resource Center.
Cash App even offers several security features that other payment apps do not, including an artificial intelligence–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 shouldn’t use your credit card for payment.
Risks of using Cash App
The tool offers safety precautions to protect its customers, but is Cash App safe? “How users engage with the technology can make all the difference,” Velasquez says. Scammers often take advantage of people who use Cash App like a bank, storing money on the app, 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 made using a traditional credit or debit card. Since Cash App treats all money like cash, it’s almost impossible to get the money back once it is transferred.
In other words, if you’re going to use Cash App, learn how to spot these prevalent Cash App scams before you lose money. In fact, no matter what contactless payment app you use—Apple Pay and Google Pay are also vulnerable to scams—be sure you know how to spot scams before you send a payment.
The most common Cash App scams
No matter how often you use Cash App, do yourself a favor and learn about the scams you may come across on the app. It could save you a good chunk of change in the end.
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. But many Cash App users have been fooled by scammers who impersonate Cash App customer service employees through phone scams.
These thieves create phony websites with fake Cash App support phone numbers, which victims believe are real when they appear in a Google search. When victims call the phone number, the fraudster pretends to be a Cash App representative and asks them for their login information. These bad actors will later use the login details to hijack the account and make purchases.
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.
How to avoid it: When you call customer support, beware of anyone who asks for personal information, such as 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 IT training company ITProTV, recommends going straight to Cash App’s website to find the customer support phone number or reporting the issue through the app instead. That way, you can avoid accidentally stumbling upon a fake Cash App customer service number.
2. 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 use the app to pay for fake items sold on online shopping platforms like Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp.Once the unsuspecting users pay the fees, the fraudsters will disappear without handing over the items.
How to avoid it: Cash App recommends against sending a payment to someone you don’t know or paying 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 following the steps below.
- Select the transaction.
- Tap the three dots.
- Go to “Need Help & Cash App Support.”
- Click “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 safest 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.
3. Sending random payments
We know what you’re thinking: “A random person sent me money on Cash App—score!” But while receiving an unexpected payment might feel like a pleasant surprise at first, it’s likely “the bait for a scam,” Hamerstone says.
Here’s how it works: Fraudsters will create a fake profile, link it to a stolen credit card or bank account number and “accidentally” send a fake Cash App payment to the victim. From there, they will contact the recipient and ask them to send it back, switch the stolen card to their own and collect the refund.
Here’s where things get bad for you: As the Better Business Bureau notes, the money will eventually disappear from your account because it came from a now invalid credit card. That means that if you receive and then return $1,000, you could be out $1,000 in a few days, when the stolen card is canceled and the stolen funds disappear from your account.
How to avoid it: If you receive an unexpected or random payment, resist the urge to contact the sender yourself. “While you can ask the sender to cancel the payment, this can sometimes lead you down a rabbit hole of back-and-forth interactions,” Hamerstone says. Instead, he recommends blocking the user, then reporting the issue to Cash App’s customer service department and asking them to cancel the payment.
4. Cash flipping
There is one rule of thumb when it comes to Cash App scams: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, according to Gordon. For example, in a scam popular on social media, fraudsters promise to increase (or “flip”) your money when you send them money via Cash App first. If you send them $10 to $1,000, they claim, they will send you back double or triple the original sum. (Spoiler: They won’t.)
In another common Cash App scam, bad actors will ask you to send a certain amount of money in return for a higher rate, which you’ll supposedly receive from other participants. Called a money circle, cash wheel or pyramid scheme, these scams are designed so that you never receive any money back.
How to avoid it: To avoid getting tricked by one of these scams, “your first line of defense is to not send money to people you do not know,” Gordon says. Keep your transactions only between people you know and trust—no matter how good a deal it seems. While you’re at it, learn how to spot fake donation scams and gift card scams too.
5. Fake #CashAppFriday offers
Every Friday, Cash App holds an official sweepstakes in which customers can win cash prizes. But there are also dozens of fake Cash App Friday events on Instagram, Facebook and other social networks, and they use the official #CashAppFriday promotional hashtag. Scammers will create fraudulent raffles, then 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.
How to avoid it: 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 check mark beside the username.
6. Offering investment opportunities
With more and more people getting interested in cryptocurrency, scammers have taken note. There’s a proliferation of crypto scams to watch out for. These bad guys fool victims by approaching them with an unbelievable opportunity to invest in crypto. Once victims send funds to purchase the cryptocurrency through Cash App, the scammer will disappear with the money.
In other scenarios, the scammer sends the victim back the money, plus some extra cash that they “earned” from the investment to entice them to send more. “This can go on and on until the scammer cleans you out or you eventually realize the scam,” Hamerstone says. “But either way, the money is gone, and you are left with little recourse to get it back.”
How to avoid it: Be skeptical of strangers on Cash App who approach you with an investment opportunity. “As with many scams, these often begin with a too-good-to-be-true opportunity, which is a red flag that something is wrong,” Hamerstone says. You should only use Cash App to exchange money with people you know and trust.
He also recommends blocking users who contact you randomly. “While it may seem random to you, the scammer knows exactly what they are doing,” he says.
7. Hacking accounts
Scammers can’t steal your money just by finding your Cash App name, but they could potentially hijack the account if you don’t follow proper password security. If you reuse a password for multiple accounts, hackers can find it by purchasing password lists on the dark web and running the passwords against a variety of online accounts, Hamerstone says. They could also hack into your email account and reset your password or trick you into sharing your login credentials, two-factor authentication code or password reset links.
How to avoid it: To protect your Cash App account from hackers, create a strong, unique password and enable two-factor authentication. Do the same for your email account, which is likely to have access to sensitive information or accounts. Above all, it’s important to never share your login credentials, two-factor authentication code or password reset links with anyone—and be skeptical of people who ask for them.
8. Smishing texts
Like phishing emails and vishing attacks, the scam called smishing is a form of social engineering that tries to trick you out of personal information. Victims of this scam receive texts that appear to be from Cash App at first glance. But in reality, a fraudster is behind the phony message.
The texts may ask you to verify your Cash App account or tell you to change your password because your account was compromised. They include a link to a fake site that steals your username and password when you try to log in. Once scammers know your login credentials, they can gain access to your account and request money from your friends or purchase items with your card.
How to avoid it: Never click on any links sent via an unsolicited text, email or social media message, even if it looks like it came from a legitimate source like Cash App, Hamerstone says. To secure your account from hackers who have your login credentials, he suggests turning on two-factor authentication and using the Security Lock setting in Cash App, which requires a passcode when making a payment. It’s also good practice to avoid storing money in your Cash App account in case it gets hacked, Hamerstone says.
9. Romance scams
Most romance scammer stories begin the same way: The scammer courts the victim on a dating app or through social media and wins their trust with tactics like love bombing. After a few weeks or months, they tell the victim that they need money for a made-up emergency and ask the victim to transfer the money using Cash App.
“Victims are usually asked for more and more until, like with other scams, you are left with nothing or are ghosted by your ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ and learn that they are no longer online,” Hamerstone says.
How to avoid it: First and foremost, it’s best to limit the personal information you share with people you meet online. Once they gain your trust, “scammers are banking on your emotions taking over your judgment,” Hamerstone says. This makes you more vulnerable to their tricks.
You should also never send money or share your social security number or bank account information with people online. Not only are requests for these items a sign of romance scams and military romance scams, but they could also leave you vulnerable to bank scams and wire fraud.
10. Phony COVID-19 programs
The coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for cybercriminals looking to swindle Cash App users out of money. In fact, complaints of fraud on Cash App increased a whopping 472% 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. Others advertise phony lottery or giveaway scams that claim you’ve won a prize for being vaccinated, Velasquez says.
How to avoid it: While “it sounds plausible because there are legitimate lotteries in several states,” Velasquez says, there is one major red flag: These scammers will ask for identity credentials and financial information, and they’ll request that you pay taxes or fees 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.
What to do if you think you’ve been scammed
If you think you’re a victim of a Cash App scam, immediately report the incident to Cash Support and cut off contact with the scammer, according to Cash App’s website. From there, take these steps:
Velasquez suggests alerting the Federal Trade Commission and Internet Crime Complaint Center if you lost money.
Take steps to change your Cash App account password. To protect your account going forward, choose a unique passphrase with 12 characters or more, use a different password for each online account and save all passwords in a password manager.
Next, find out what car warranty scams are and how to avoid them.
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- Alex Hamerstone, advisory solutions director at TrustedSec
- 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”
- Federal Trade Commission: “Making mobile payments? Protect yourself from scams”