ATLANTA — Money-sharing apps like Venmo, Cash App and Zelle are quick, easy and convenient.
But Channel 2 Action News has been flooded with calls the past few weeks from people who had their bank accounts cleaned out when they thought they were working through a problem with the Cash App customer service team.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray found the victims weren’t really talking to Cash App after making a simple, but costly mistake.
Sharon Moore lost her home in a tornado.
A friend had given her $9,000 to help rebuild her home. But the money is all gone, every penny, after she ran into a problem while trying to use Cash App.
“I lost everything in the tornado,” Moore said. " My house still looks like the tornado."
Moore said she thought she was calling Cash App customer service to fix the glitch. She found the number on Google.
Atlanta resident Steven Wynn did the same thing.
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“I said, 'Let’s see if there’s a support number for Cash App, an 800 number. And there it was, big and right there,” Wynn said.
In both cases, the number that came up on Google was not actually Cash App.
“They were so smooth. By the time you realize something just is not right, all your money is gone,” Wynn said. “All of it.”
The person on the line -- who was pretending to be customer service -- gathered up all the information that she needed, installed an app on her phone, and drained Moore’s bank account.
“My money was zero, that’s how quick it was,” Moore said. " My money was zero."
In Wynn’s case, his friend first gave the scammers access to his Cash App login over the phone. Then, while trying to help clear up the confusion, Wynn gave them his information, too. Both their bank accounts were cleaned out.
“I say, if somebody calls me asking for banking information, I’m not going to give it to them,” Wynn said. " But in that situation, we thought it was the real people, and they needed this to get what we wanted done, done."
If you call the actual Cash App phone number, you don’t get a real person, just a recording. The company told Gray that they instruct all customers to deal with problems through the app, not the phone.
“The Cash App team will never ask customers to send them money, nor will they solicit a customer’s PIN or sign-in code outside of the app,” a spokesperson said.
“I know Cash App can say we should read the fine print and all that. But you read the fine print, you say, ‘Well, they finally got the support system working now where you can call.’ That’s what you’re thinking,” Wynn said.
Channel 2 Consumer Advisor Clark Howard said the scam isn’t just limited to Cash App. Criminals have figured out how to game those Google searches.
“Any time you Google a customer service number, know that the odds are as close to 100% possible it is fake,” Howard said.
Howard said the money sharing apps Venmo and Cash App are safe and secure if you use them with people you know. But there’s no turning back if you make a mistake.
“If you do make a mistake, and it can be a tiny clerical mistake, your money takes a one-way trip with no way to recoup it,” Howard said. “And that’s the problem with these apps.”
Sharon Moore thought Cash App found her money when she got a message through the app.
“He informed me I needed to give him someone I trusted that would accept my refund and give it to me,” Moore said.
But it was the scammers again, and now, Moore’s sister was also out $2,000.
Steve Wynn said it seems so clear now that he was dealing with criminals, but at the time, he thought he was dealing with real Cash App employees just trying to help.
“You’re thinking at the time that ‘Why would I do something so stupid?’ But I did,” Wynn said.
The takeaway is: Don’t Google to look for a customer service support number for any business. If there is a real person on the line, hang up. Cash App doesn’t do business over the phone.
Cox Media Group