How to Stay Safe on Money Transfer Apps

A person holds a phone while looking at the zelle app.

Getty Images and Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

We live in an age of mobile payment apps like Venmo, PayPal, Cash App and, the most popular one of all, Zelle. Launched in 2017, Zelle has become the largest money transfer app in America, and it’s not even close anymore.

But now Zelle is coming under fire for the way it handles scams on its app — or the way it doesn’t handle scams.

Complaints about fraud and scams on the payment app are surging, but the big banks that run Zelle are refusing to reimburse swindled customers, according to a new report from the office of US Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

We’ve got some helpful tips for how to keep your money safe on Zelle, Venmo, Cash App — all the popular peer-to-peer payment services.

Tens of Thousands of Scams

Warren, D-Massachusetts, is known as a fierce critic of America’s big banks and their business practices. Her report cites data from four banks — Bank of America, PNC Bank, Truist and US Bank — that reported nearly 193,000 Zelle fraud and scam cases collectively worth $214 million in 2021 and the first half of 2022.

These were cases in which Zelle users said they were tricked into making payments. Here’s the kicker: Those banks reimbursed customers in only about 3,500 out of 193,000 cases, the report said.

Zelle: It’s Because We’re So Big

Zelle’s owner, Early Warning Services, says the rise in fraud complaints is happening only because Zelle has become way more popular in recent years: “Zelle usage has grown significantly since its launch, from 247 million transactions in 2017 to 1.8 billion in 2021, while the proportion of fraud and scams has steadily decreased. “

Zelle is operated by a coalition of seven of the country’s biggest banks: Bank of America, Capital One,…

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