“Just Venmo Me!”

Get to Know Scott Augenbaum

“Just Venmo Me!”

To CashApp, PayPal, Apple Pay or Venmo, or not- that is the question! I have to admit: I have never been called an expert when it comes to new technology. I can justify this though; as my job is not to dote on what’s hip and cool, but to understand the platform while trying to find as many potential vulnerabilities as possible. As a retired FBI Agent, I can sniff out the next up-and-coming attack vector, hopefully before someone on the Dark Web does.

To stay on top of the cybersecurity/technology game, you have to ask yourself, “What’s next?”

I recently had a chat with an old entrepreneur friend of mine, who was hosting a cybersecurity event I was speaking at. He explained how cryptocurrency is the wave of the future, and that it’s only a matter of time before it’s integrated into every type of commerce. 

As I was about to give my two-cents (which I’m always very quick to do), he told me to keep quiet as he reminded me that it was only five years ago when I proclaimed that I would never use social media. Today, I consider myself an avid LinkedIn user since I use this platform (as well as many others) as a vehicle to educate the masses from cybercrime victimization. I’d like to think I use social media wisely and securely, by keeping all my accounts secure with good password hygiene, two-factor authentication and being suspicious of ALL links. This doesn’t take away all of the risk though.

The dangers are endless when it comes to this topic. Like, for instance, our ability to use our phones to make digital payments.

Do you realize how many risks are involved when making payments via your phone?

There are many. A few years ago we were introduced to the world of digital payments with a couple of familiar apps such as PayPal, Venmo, CashApp and Apple Pay. It’s a pretty simple concept. You download the App, provide your bank account information and the App does the transferring of money for you. You are able to send and receive money to and from anyone, for goods/services, or just to pay back your friend for taking you to Chili’s. It’s like driving to the nearest ATM, withdrawing money, then giving it to them- all without leaving the cozy comfort of your couch. If technology is supposed to ease our daily living, then this sounds like that to me. 

However, like anything else, easy is not always what’s best. 

Let’s get one thing clear; these types of services do not offer you the same protection as your credit cards. As this article  hilariously points out, you are only liable for $50 if fraud occurs via your credit card. Many also offer zero-liability policies. Debit cards (which I always try to stay away from) offer similar protections.   

Digital payments are just like cash, so when you pay for something it’s like the money comes right out of your pocket. 

I’ve seen numerous fraudulent transactions result in the emptying of checking accounts; and even worse- life savings.  

Sadly, these things happen daily. Here’s an example of a typical scam.

Someone advertises tickets for sale for an event on Facebook. They give a believable excuse for why they can’t attend the event. They may even call you to explain that the babysitter cancelled and they just want to breakeven. They will send you a picture of a counterfeit image of what you think is the legitimate ticket. The kicker will be they will only take payment through Venmo, Apple Cash or Google Pay or something similar. You use these platforms regularly, or at least have used them before. No red flags, right?  

Once the money is taken out of your account and the bad guy gets it, the money is gone. 

At this time, there is no protection provided with these platforms. 

Law enforcement cannot just contact these services and ask for the identity of the thief.   Subpoenas need to be issued, and in almost all cases the bad guys are not located in the same area as the crime. 

Afterall, being digital means you can be anywhere. 

I use Venmo and Apple Pay and I do think they are great services. However there are a few simple rules you should follow:

  1. Only transfer money to people you know. I pay my assistant, and put money into family members accounts. That’s it.  
  2. Keep transactions private. Don’t allow others to see who and what you’ve sent or received.
  3. Use a different password for EACH of these platforms, and use my book as a guide on great password examples.

As I always say, 90% of cybercrime can be prevented through educational awareness. Avoid paying a cybercriminal’s salary by sharing this information with loved ones. You never know who will be the next victim!

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