• Acts of kindness repaid with theft: The phone scam warning to watch out for

    By: Ted Daniel

    Updated:

    You may want to think twice about letting someone borrow your phone if it has a money transfer app like Venmo on it.  

    Instead of making a call or sending a text, thieves are stealing thousands of dollars from bank accounts.

    It happened to Vanessa Lira.

    "I got a notice from my bank that there was overdraft on my account and I knew I had plenty of money for all the things I spent money on," Lira said.  

    Dozens of other victims have reported the same crime. Warnings have been issued by police in cities like Atlanta, Charlotte and Denver, and several local departments tell Boston 25 News they’re on the lookout now.

    Scammers typically target people in high traffic areas and often claim to want to borrow a phone due to an emergency. They will often delete the Venmo app before returning the phone to delay detection.   

    >>RELATED: Holiday shopping: Three big retailers announce gift card restrictions to prevent scams

    “There’s no account numbers involved.  It’s literally first name, last name.  Transfers are relatively instantaneous easy process, which is why the app is so successful.” said Robert Siciliano, a Boston based personal security expert with HotSpot shield.

    PROTECTING YOURSELF

    There is an easy way to prevent unauthorized Venmo activity even if someone gets a hold of your phone and it only takes five minutes.

    Even if you already have a pin for your phone, you should set up a separate pin for Venmo.

    Go to settings.  Select “pin code” in security settings, follow the instructions to create a 4 digit pin.

    You can also link your Venmo account to a credit card instead of a debit card or checking account. 

    There is a fee on transactions with a credit card, but most credit cards won’t hold you liable if you’re a victim of fraud.

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