Created in partnership with CashApp

I Fell For A Scam — Here’s What I Learned From It

Your phone rings. It’s a call from a mysterious number. The person on the other end claims to be from your bank and asks you to verify some personal information in order to continue the call. Before you know it, your accounts are drained, and you’re left in shock, wondering what just happened.
If you’ve ever fallen victim to a scam, you know just how distressing it can be — maybe you even felt some shame or embarrassment. But they’re much more common than you might think, and only growing more sophisticated. According to the FTC, Americans lost more than $10 billion to scams in 2023 alone, and in today’s technology-reliant world, many are now carried out over smartphone money transfer apps. In fact, a 2023 J.D. Power survey found that 8% of all banking customers had encountered fraud through these apps in the previous 12 months.
These are carried out in several different ways. According to Dino Dai Zovi, head of security for Cash App, common tactics include cash flipping, where a scammer claims they can increase your money if you send them money first; and payment claiming, where they ask you to “claim” a payment that you “deserve” by sending them money. Another involves them sending a payment “by accident,” then asking you to send it back. “This amount comes from your account funds, so when they dispute the payment with their bank, they’re reimbursed by both you and the bank,” explains Dai Zovi. Additionally, these apps are used to request fake deposits, particularly for pet adoptions and apartment rentals that don’t exist — and all it takes is a photo of a golden retriever puppy or your dream one-bedroom apartment to set up a too-good deal that may fool unsuspecting victims.
But despite rising rates, handling your financial transactions through money transfer apps provides an extra layer of protection between a scammer and your bank accounts — and when you work with Cash App, you also have multiple safety checks when suspicious activity is detected and a streamlined system to dispute fraudulent transactions.
It may be impossible to become fully immune to financial schemes, especially as they continue to evolve along with the technology we use, but knowing what red flags to look for can help. “If it sounds too good to be true, like a ‘hack’ or free money in return for sending a payment, it likely is,” says Dai Zovi. And should you find random funds dropped into your account by a stranger, don’t engage. “Even if it seems to be an accident, decline payment requests from people you don’t know.” And never give away sensitive information — your full card numbers, bank account information, social security number, or any log-ins or PIN codes for any personal accounts — to someone whose identity you haven’t verified.
There’s also safety in knowing what tactics are currently trending among today’s most persuasive con artists. That’s why we partnered with Cash App to learn more about today’s most common financial schemes from those who actually fell for them. Keep reading to hear their stories, and the lessons they learned along the way.
The Scam: “I bought fake concert tickets over Twitter. I was scouring social media to see if anyone was selling tickets to my favorite band’s sold-out show that evening when I came across a tweet from a guy selling two. He texted me screenshots of the ticket numbers and email confirmation and said I could pay him using a money transfer app since it was ‘the safest platform for this kind of transaction.’ He said he would transfer the tickets to my name at the same time I sent him the funds, and within seconds of paying him, my number and Twitter were blocked. It turns out he had scammed about 10 other people with the same tickets. Thankfully, I called the money transfer app, and they noticed the activity on his account, flagged it as fraud, and got me my money back — it was a relatively easy process.”
The Lesson: “I’ve since learned how common ticket scams are, so now I stick to regular ticket-selling platforms unless I’m face-to-face with a scalper. I’m now skeptical of anyone selling me anything. It can all look legitimate — they can send me screenshots and receipts and give me all the information, as this man did — but it could still be a con. Still, when I do need to pay someone I don’t know personally, I feel much more comfortable doing it through a money transfer app, knowing they’ll back me up and help me get my money back should it, in fact, be a scam. While I hope this never happens again, that extra security makes me feel a lot safer.”

The Scam: “I sold a $3,000 camera on Facebook Marketplace…and never got paid. After seemingly normal back and forth with the buyer, I told them I could ship it out that same day as long as they first paid me through a money transfer app. I then received an email from the app asking me to verify my tracking number in order to receive their payment — which I initially thought was legitimate and extra protection on their end — so I sent it out before any funds hit my account. (I found out later that this verification email was fake.) Once I realized what was happening, I tried intercepting the package but couldn’t, and it delivered to the scammer the next day. I thought about calling in a police report to the address he gave me — I was so mad, I even considered driving down there myself! — but ultimately just blocked and reported the account.”

The Lesson: “Scammers are really good at what they do. Every initial interaction with them was normal and friendly, and, at times, they acted like they were trying to ensure that I wasn’t conning them, like with the fake email asking me to verify my tracking number. Moving forward, I know I need to take extra steps to verify the person’s identity, pay attention to red flags and inconsistencies (like their Facebook profile saying they lived in Italy, not Delaware, like the address I was given), and look into any sort of transactional emails coming from any financial app or institution. Fake emails can look extremely real and use company logos, so ensure they’re sent from a verified company email address and contact the company yourself to confirm.”

The Scam: “I was tricked into the money-flipping scam by my former friend and roommate. While we lived together, she asked on two separate occasions to send me money through a money transfer app and have me send it back to her, which she said was to help her transfer money and that she does it all the time. I didn’t feel the need to question her further — I knew and trusted her and, at the time, considered her a friend! Four months later, after I had cut her out of my life and no longer lived together, I suddenly got a notification from the money transfer app that my balance was -$350 — the total of both transfers — which they confirmed was because she had disputed my transactions with her bank.”

The Lesson: “Do your research before agreeing to any kind of quick transaction; it’s a good way to protect yourself and stay up to date on the newest scams. Something about the situation did feel off to me, and I did question it in my head, but since she was a friend, I didn’t suspect she was scheming in case we ever stopped being friends. If you’re questioning it in any way, regardless of whether it’s a friend asking you a favor, just don’t do it.”
The Scam: “A tattoo artist stole my deposit. After some back and forth with an artist from Greece I had been following, he said he’d be in New York tattooing the next year and that I could send a deposit to reserve my appointment — a totally normal practice for tattoos. But after he gave me his money transfer app information, he kept stressing the urgency of needing my deposit ASAP to reserve these ‘limited’ spots that were filling up. So I sent him $200, and then there was radio silence. Because the date was a year out, and he was a known artist with 50k Instagram followers, I didn’t immediately think something was off. I figured I’d hear back closer to the date, and that the language barrier could be a factor in his unresponsiveness. But my follow-up emails and DMs went unanswered and needless to say, I never got my tattoo.”

The Lesson: “Scammers love to create a sense of urgency; that’s how they hook you. They make you think the offer won’t be available if you don’t send the money right then and there, throwing you off and making you nervous so that you just do it. The urgency he created and how vague everything was — he kept ignoring my questions about what shop he’d be tattooing from — is now a raging red flag to me. I’m now extremely cautious of anything involving a payment. Even if my credit card company calls to verify my information, I take every step possible to ensure it’s actually them. By the time I realized what happened, it was too late to dispute the transaction with the money transfer app, so I now know to act quickly to report any fraudulent payments. Getting my money back is possible, but dispute periods have end dates.”

The Scam: “I paid off a debt that didn’t exist. I received a call from a man screaming at me that I had violated some penal code and committed a felony. He had all my information, including my social security number and my grandmother’s name and address, where I once lived. He threatened that if I didn’t pay him the $800 I apparently owed right away, he would come to my office and arrest me or go to my grandmother’s house and wait for me. Absolutely terrified, I pulled out my debit card and paid him over the phone. At the time, I had been taking out payday loans regularly, and even though I was adamant about paying them back on time, I worried I somehow missed a payment and ended up with a debt collector. It wasn’t until an hour later, when I was no longer in fight or flight mode, that I realized it was a fraud.” 

The Lesson: “Scammers will prey on people who could have a bill outstanding, so it’s believable that they could be in trouble. After this happened, I looked at the FTC’s consumer protection site and learned that if it’s a legal debt, they must send you physical documentation by law. So if someone says you owe them money, tell them to mail you physical documentation before sending them anything — which someone conning you will refuse to do. At the time, I didn’t have as much financial literacy as I do now, so I didn’t even think to call the bank and dispute the transaction. Now, I would. I’m also very suspicious of anything that feels a bit off; I listen to that instinct now. And if I feel myself go into fight or flight, instead of reacting, I take a beat and think about it before I make any sort of move.”

The Scam: “I needed my insurance company to confirm they could cover a specialized treatment I needed, so I called the first number to pop up on Google. I ended up on the phone with someone (surprise, not from my insurance company!) who said I’d need to pay for additional coverage to get the treatment and insisted that if I didn’t pay them right then and there, I wouldn’t be able to access it at all. Panicked, I gave them my personal information and a credit card number through a link they sent me, but I felt something was off. After hanging up, I realized it was a scam and saw they had already charged me for two months of ‘coverage’ upfront at $1,200. I’m still in the process of disputing these payments, but thankfully, I was able to stop any future charges.”

The Lesson: “Scammers love to prey on sick, vulnerable people — which is horrible. I was at my most vulnerable at the time, and I now know that if I ever need to call an insurance company or a treatment center and I feel I’m in too rough a mental state to get help on my own, I can turn to trusted family members and friends to help. In general, I’ve learned to be much more careful and to always check that I’m on a legitimate company website when searching for a phone number or submitting personal information. And also to pay more attention to my gut — if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

The Scam: “I fell for something called the ‘mural scam’ — a popular tactic at the time. An alleged art company emailed me that their client wanted to paint a mural of my Instagram photo, offering me $1,600 in compensation. Flattered but a little bit skeptical, I ultimately agreed to it. I received my $1,600 check, deposited it, and it cleared. Soon after, they told me I needed to pay the client a $300 fee via a money transfer app, which I didn’t mind because I technically would still be making $1,300. Ten days after I initially cashed the check, I woke up to my account so deep in the negatives because the check had bounced. Then, there was another twist: I found an Instagram account with the same username as the app account, so I reached out and asked for my money back. She told me the same company had contacted her with the same scheme, and they tricked her into investing my $300 in cryptocurrency. I tried disputing the transaction through the app customer service, but ultimately, they couldn’t help me.”
The Lesson: “Anytime I need to cash a check that could be potentially sketchy, I’ll now go to the bank IRL to validate it and ensure it won’t bounce a full 10 days later — and I’d also wait longer to touch any of that money. While I technically only lost $300, I had already spent a big chunk of the funds from the check before it bounced. I paid off my credit card, I did a little shopping, I even took myself out for oysters! So that money I wouldn’t have spent otherwise was gone. Now that I’m aware of these types of scams, I’m much more cautious about anything involving a transaction. I always triple-check everything and study any emails or DMs more thoroughly for red flags, like consistent misspellings or strange requests — why would I need to pay the client fee? — that would indicate it might not be legitimate.”
*Names have been changed to protect and respect their privacy.

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