Venmo — it’s a verb, it’s a noun, it’s a one stop shop for fraud and plunging your bank account into negative numbers.
For our generation, Venmo has granted us the convenience of quick payments and the removal of the awkwardness of asking a friend to pay you back, supplemented with some cute emojis and social media resembling interface.
On a personal front, the app typically sat in a corner of my folders in my phone, untouched. As I used the app quite infrequently, attached to my Venmo was only one bank account, as the app had also informed me that credit card transactions would create an additional 3% fee.
Around 1 a.m. nearing finals week of last month, my Venmo account received a series of charges, some of which didn’t go through, and some of which did, all surmounting to a minimum $500 each. Ultimately, because my Venmo account is tied to my bank account rather than a card, I ended up with -$400 in my bank account and getting charged overdraft fees. Neither my bank nor Venmo contacted me at this point for any suspicious activity.
My immediate response was to contact Venmo, remove my bank from my Venmo account, and change my password and username. I contacted Venmo in all possible ways in different hours of the day other than physically showing up at their headquarters and demanding attention — no response, radio silence. Nothing when I called, nothing when I emailed (twice), nothing when I used their contact form on their app, nothing when I used their contact form on their website, and nothing when I tweeted at @VenmoSupport. Not even an automated response to let me know they’ve received these things.
Although I ultimately have filed the fraud dispute with my bank, I shouldn’t have had to. Venmo was the only party in this situation capable of canceling the charges, and considering that they make money off of most transactions, it’s more than a little suspicious that they won’t do it.
In the scenario that one does get through to Venmo, concerned Reddit users have reported a series of mixed responses from Venmo Support, some noting they were referred to their bank, and some whose accounts were frozen and banned. Venmo’s Consumer Affairs reviews all, too, point to a history of unhelpful customer service and blame deflection. In other words, the issue is large enough that the average user should be concerned, but it’s not big enough to create a negative wave in Venmo’s PR, and thus, nothing will likely be done yet, as these issues can be resolved through one’s bank, and the hassle of going through legal trouble with Venmo is not something the average person wants to undergo.
Before you say, “This wouldn’t happen to me! I have maximum security set up,” consider that Venmo’s security is, in reality, just not as strong as you think it is. For college students, in particular, especially those of whom aren’t familiar with filing fraud disputes, the hassle of contacting your bank and file one amidst finals, work, and often not being even located in your hometown makes the process just that much more unbearable. And, let’s face it — although I’m lucky enough to have a support system that my -$400 bank account won’t mean I don’t eat for the few weeks it’ll take for my bank to reimburse me, that’s not true for a lot of students who live out of their own pocket.
In other words — close your Venmo accounts. Of course, I encourage anyone, even if not a student, to close their accounts. But given that a good majority of Venmo’s user base tends to be Gen Z and Millennials, chances are that the collective means, desire, and power to take legal action against Venmo in the case of fraud is unfortunately small. And it’s just not worth the convenience.
Stock photo used from Pexel