Using Venmo payment app the wrong way might put users at risk

DENVER -- Brian Schmitz was anxious to get rid of his old Nintendo game console, so he put it on Craigslist and was excited to get a $249 offer.

The buyer, who called himself “Rober Anthony,” told Schmitz he'd pay with the popular smartphone app Venmo, which allows users to quickly make direct payments to people also using the app.

Schmitz says he thought, “If the money goes through, it goes through, right?”

After making the payment, the man showed up at Schmitz’s job and took the Nintendo.  An hour later, Schmitz received an email from Venmo saying a refund had been issued to the man.  After Schmitz reported the problem, disclosing he used the app to sell an item on Craigslist, he became aware of the app policy forbidding merchant transactions.

“My account has been canceled by Venmo -- their choice -- for me breaking those rules," Schmitz said.

FOX31 Problem Solvers consulted technology security expert Brian Cather of CP Cyber Security.

“Not only was he not using it the right way, but he wasn't using it with the right people," Cather said. He said Venmo has a built in-security feature. “You use Venmo and Zelle with the people you know, the people you know personally, people you can hold accountable if the payment doesn't go through."

Cather recommends accepting cash only.

The Denver Better Business Bureau told the Problem Solvers when doing business on Craigslist, always meet in a safe, secure, populated place to make an exchange, bring a friend along, never deal with anyone who will not provide a phone number or speak with you over the phone, and never give out your social security number or any financial information.

Cather says the app marketplace is monitoring so-called copycat payment apps and not allowing them on the Google Play Store.

Brian Schmitz says security surveillance cameras captured images of the man who stole the Nintendo and he has filed a police report.

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