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Peer-to-Peer Payment Apps: Popular With Consumers & Criminals

Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps like Venmo, Zelle and Cash App are as fast and convenient for criminals as they are for consumers.

According to a recent AARP Survey, over 65 percent of U.S. adults use P2P payment apps for quick money transfers. However, a concerning 68 percent of those users report engaging in P2P payment practices that can expose them to potential fraud risks.

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Here’s a closer look at how some P2P payment scams work and steps to safeguard yourself.

How It Works

  • You hear from a loved one claiming to be in trouble — maybe it’s an accident, an arrest or hospitalization, and they need your financial help fast via a P2P app.
  • An online marketplace seller requires upfront P2P payment for a product or service.
  • A communication from your bank warns there’s a problem with your account, but they can help keep your money safe by moving it via a P2P app.

What You Should Know

  • P2P apps do not have the same consumer protections that credit cards have. Transactions are like paying cash, instantaneous and usually irreversible.

What You Should Do:

  • It’s best to use P2P apps to send money to friends, family and other people you know and trust.
  • If you’re uncertain about the legitimacy of a P2P payment request, contact the person, bank or business through a known and legitimate phone number (relying on a Google search could bring up a fraudulent number, opening the door to more scams).
  • If you find unauthorized payments or otherwise experience a scam via a P2P payment, contact your bank immediately. Report fraud crime to law enforcement, and share the information with the Federal Trade Commission.

Support for Fraud Victims: The AARP Fraud Watch Network offers AARP VOA ReST, a free program that provides emotional support for people affected by fraud. Hour-long ReST sessions are confidential small-group meetings that are held online and led by trained peer facilitators. Experiencing a scam can be devastating, but it doesn’t have to define you. Interested? Visit aarp.org/fraudsupport to learn more.

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Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.