When a friend or family member is stuck in a bad situation and urgently needs money, you should help them out, right? Not if they are a scammer pulling this new con. Always double-check before sending money to a friend in need.

You get an out-of-the-blue Venmo request from a friend who needs money. Perhaps your friend has lost their wallet and needs to buy groceries. Could you send a couple hundred dollars to tide them over?

It sounds like a reasonable request. And it looks legitimate too. The message comes from an account using — what seems to be — your friend’s username and profile photo. But if you look closer, you notice that the name is a character or two off from their real Venmo account.

Scammers are taking advantage of generous friends by changing their username and profile pictures to impersonate real app users. Using the information visible in Venmo’s public feed, they figure out from whom this person had previously sent or received money. Then, scammers contact these users with requests for money.

This scam is just one of many cons using digital wallets apps, such as PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, and Apple Pay. Be aware that unlike credit cards, many digital wallet vendors will not shoulder the cost of fraud. If you pay scammers using a digital wallet, you may not be successful in getting the company to reimburse you.

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