What the Tech? How Good Is Your Security on Venmo?
It was just a side note in a New York Times story about President Joe Biden’s first few months in office; the president used his Venmo account to send money to his grandchildren.
Journalists at BuzzFeed read that and someone there thought “I wonder if we could find his Venmo account”. They did, they wrote, after about a 10-minute search. Prompting the question “if the president’s Venmo account can be discovered that easily, what does that say about mine?”
Venmo is one of the easiest ways to send and receive money when neither person has cash.
Owned by PayPal now, it’s the best way for friends to split a check, pay for a portion of the rent, buy a pizza, pay for a haircut, or (as I’ve learned) pay for a $3 yard sale item when I have no cash on hand.
To use Venmo, users must give it access to a bank account or credit card account. When they send money through the Venmo app, it is taken from that credit card or bank account. When users receive money it is kept in a Venmo wallet or locker until they transfer it to the bank account.
It’s very simple to use requiring a user to scan a QR code from someone’s phone or just to send or request payment using the other person’s Venmo username.
By default, every transaction made using Venmo is made public which means anyone from anywhere will see that you just paid for something. Payments require a note which can be emojis or a word such as “pizza”, “rent”, or “birthday gift”. The amount of money being transferred is not made public, only the reason.
Users can change that setting from public to friends or private within their settings by tapping on what everyone calls the “hamburger” icon which looks like three horizontal bars in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
You can make all the transactions private or shared only with friends. You can also make the change for all of your transactions in the past and in the future.
Unless you want everyone knowing that you just paid for rent or a portion of an Uber ride, I’d suggest changing that setting to private among the two parties or “friends” at the very least. This is a change you’ll have to make yourself, otherwise, everything you do on Venmo is public.
Other changes you might want to make:
Connect Venmo to a credit card account rather than a bank or debit card. There is a 3% charge on transactions but it is much safer. Credit card companies protect your accounts from unauthorized use but a bank or debit card breach could result in all of the money in that account to be taken in one swift move.
Do not keep a large amount of money in your Venmo locker or wallet. Transfer that money promptly when it’s received.
Set up notifications so that you’ll receive a text message whenever money goes into or out of your Venmo account.
MAKE YOUR PASSWORD IMPOSSIBLE FOR SOMEONE TO GUESS! I say this for all of your accounts but it is even more critical for accounts tied to social media AND your bank account.
Do not use your Venmo password for any other account.
Set up 2-factor authentication. If there is a sign-in on any new device you will need to use the 2nd form of approval such as a text message to a device or a fingerprint scanner.
Venmo can be hacked and has been hacked in the past. With billions of dollars in transactions taking place every year and with over 52 million people using the platform, hackers see a huge opportunity.
One scam going around is sending a user a text message or phone call claiming to be from Venmo and saying someone is trying to use your account. They’ll want to send a text message and ask that you reply to it to change your password.
Once that happens, they’ll be able to access your Venmo account. A Venmo user in Virginia lost over $2,000 in this phishing scheme.
Venmo assures users it has safety measures in place to protect their accounts and their money.
Users need to take a few steps of their own to ensure their privacy and prevent unauthorized withdrawals from their accounts.