Venmo, Zelle, Cash App leaving users vulnerable to fraud: Manhattan DA


(NEW YORK) — Venmo, Zelle and Cash App are leaving consumers vulnerable to fraud that’s “draining bank accounts of significant sums of money,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in letters to the companies that own those financial apps. He demanded they increase protections.

Bragg’s letters said he was writing “in response to a growing number of incidents” involving fraud and theft “through the exploitation of your company’s mobile financial applications on personal electronic devices such as iPhones.”

Peer-to-peer payment services now handle an estimated $1 trillion in payments and the district attorney said “frauds and scams have proliferated” as usage climbs.

In the past year, there have been thefts stretching from Los Angeles, where several people were robbed of thousands of dollars through Venmo at knifepoint, to Orlando, where a woman had thousands drained from her Venmo after a child asked to use her phone. Similar thefts and robberies have been publicly reported in West Virginia, Louisiana, Illinois, Kansas, Tennessee, Virginia and elsewhere across the United States.

“These crimes involve an unauthorized user gaining access to unlocked devices and then draining bank accounts of significant sums of money, making purchases with mobile financial applications, and using financial information from the applications to open new accounts,” Bragg’s letters said. “Offenders also take over the phone’s security by changing passwords, recovery accounts, and application settings. The ease with which offenders can collect five- and even six-figure windfalls in a matter of minutes is incentivizing a large number of individuals to commit these crimes, which are creating serious financial, and in some cases physical, harm to our residents.”

The district attorney called on Venmo, Zelle and Cash App to adopt additional security measures, including imposing limits on transactions, requiring secondary verification of up to a day and better monitoring of unusual activity.

“I am concerned about the troubling rise in illegal behavior that has developed because of insufficient security measures connected with your software and business policy decisions,” Bragg’s letters said.

He is requesting meetings with the companies.

Paypall, the owner of Venmo; Square Inc, the owner of Cash App; and Zelle did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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