Did Venmo lead to a kidnapping scam?

Did Venmo lead to a kidnapping scam?

By Greg Collier

As we have said previously, payment apps like Venmo are a great convenience for consumers. Venmo allows its users to make payments to friends and family or make a purchase without having to carry cash. However, it has a peculiar feature that’s enabled by default, and that’s the user’s public feed. It allows just about anyone to see a user’s Venmo activity, such as whom they paid and how much. The feed can be made private, but many users don’t even know the feed even exists. The feed has been used in a number of Venmo-related scams, but this is the first time we can recall it being used in such a harrowing scam.

A woman from Georgia received a phone call that came up in her caller ID as coming from her mother. Somehow, the scammers were able to ascertain her mother’s phone number and spoofed it. The scammers claimed they were in her mother’s house and were holding her mother hostage. They demanded $2500 to be paid through Venmo. She only had $500 in her account, and the scammers accepted that. Meanwhile, the woman’s boyfriend was on the phone with the woman’s brother, who was at the mother’s home at the time and verified no kidnapping was taking place. However, the woman had already sent the scammers the money, and Venmo makes it easy to block users once the transfer has been made. It’s believed that the scammers knew she was a Venmo user by guessing random usernames to see if that brings up a public feed. The woman had just used Venmo that day.

As you may know, this is known as a virtual kidnapping scam, and it has become prevalent over the past few years. If you were to receive a phone call like this, your initial reaction may be to believe what you’re being told. However, kidnappings for money are actually very rare in the United States. What you should do is try to get in contact with the person who has been supposedly kidnapped, either through using a different phone to call them or some other means of communication. You can also ask to speak to the supposed hostage and ask them a question only they would know.

Scammers often use fear as a tactic to get their victims to give them exorbitant amounts of money. However, if you have the knowledge to thwart them, you’ll have nothing to fear.