ST. LOUIS — It's the most common scam complaint we get.
This year, the 5 On Your Side I-Team has received dozens of complaints from Cash App users who say their accounts were drained by scammers.
In the past, we've been able to get those users their money back while warning others about the specific scams.
Now there's a new twist on the Cash App con that is hitting customers especially hard during the pandemic.
Convenience with a cost
Ditching the plastic, and paying with a wave or tap of your phone can seem pretty magical. Unless, like a large number of Cash App customers, you encounter a green screen with '$0' balance on it.
"All my money was going out of my account. My account is not coming up. What is going on?" said Tamika Lea, a newer Cash App user.
"I'm on the phone with them, and I'm like, 'Why do you take my money off my card?'" said Kevin Jordan, a long time Cash App user.
Both Jordan and Lea told the I-team they had issues with their Cash App accounts this summer that prompted them to contact Cash App customer service. In Lea's case, her Cash App credit card was stuck in an ATM. Jordan says one day he wasn't able to access the direct deposit that should've been in his Cash App account.
Cash App doesn't have phone support
Jordan and Lea didn't know that, however. They googled 'Cash App customer support phone number' until they finally found an 800 number they thought could connect them with a legitimate Cash App representative.
Instead, the numbers they found led them straight to scammers.
Dan Yarber, director of governance risk and compliance with Parameter Security explains.
"There's a lot of techniques that marketing companies use for search engine optimization to get their pages to their, their companies to the top of the search results," said Yarber. "The scammers are doing the exact same things. Creating those types of situations where their sites come to the top."
"It happened so fast"
Once on the line with a scammer, the I-team found the con takes a new twist.
"He said, 'OK, I'm going to need you to download Team Support Viewer. I said, 'OK, I downloaded it'," said Lea.
After Lea downloaded the Team Support app from the Android store, a six digit number came onto her screen. The fake customer service representative wanted it.
"I gave him the six digit number. He said, 'OK', and now he's on my phone. He's in my Cash App," said Lea who says she was watched in disbelief as more than $1,700 in her Cash App account was transferred out almost immediately.
"I got an alert that I just gave Christine Kerez $290. I'm like 'who is this? i didn't give anyone that money. Then i get an alert that my phone has been unlinked from my account."
For Jordan, the story was the same. Within moments of installing the Team Viewer app, and giving a six digit code to the phony customer support representative, $1,400 from his Cash App account was gone.
It's important to note, Team Viewer is a legitimate customer support app that allows someone to remotely access your phone or computer to fix technical issues.
"Team Viewer is used by a lot of companies and for tech support issues and a lot of vendors use it for helping keep their customers computers up and running."
But Yarger says it can be exploited.
"Once i have you install Team Viwer, I'm going to come in and empty your account out," said Yarger. "If i can take control your device and just empty your bank account, that's a lot faster. There's no negotiation.
The fall out
Both out thousands of dollars, Lea and Jordan aren't holding their breath for a refund.
Even the FBI admits, it can be hard to track down scammers who do this. Part of the reason is because the amounts stolen are relatively small compared to other online crimes.
"With them gaining remote access to your devices, we see that as a computer intrusion. It adds extra legal avenues we can use to charge. So we can either charge wire fraud or computer intrusion," said Kyle Storm, Special Agent with the FBI St. Louis office.
Agent Storm says the FBI hasn't seen an increase in reports about Cash App scams, but that isn't surprising. Many victims don't report the scam to the FBI, and local police are also of little help in these scenarios. Regardless, Agent Storm says the FBI does want to hear from those who have been scammed so they can look for larger patterns that may lead them to the criminal organizations who may be behind the con.
"It always kind of evolves, the different scams and the newest technology and where the criminal can make their money;. but we've seen a lot of tech support scams throughout the years," said Storm.
Report a scam to the FBI: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
Jordan and Lea have exchanged emails with the real Cash App support team. However, in both cases, they say they have not been able to get their money back.
Both say they have since deleted the app.
"It's very disheartening, you know, and it's all right now. You know, i'm not working. And i'm sure a lot of people are not working and just trying to make ends meet. And just to be scammed out of your money is just depressing," said Lea.
Lea has set up a gofundme site to help her financially recover from the scam.
We've reached out to Cash App about what happened with Lea and Jordan and are awaiting their response.
How to avoid this scam
Cash App provides the following tips on its website:
Cash App payments are instant and usually can’t be canceled. It’s important to follow these best practices regarding scammers, fraudsters, and phishing attempts.
Common questions about scams and fraudsters:
Q: Does Cash App have customer service phone support?
A: Cash App offers an automated support line at 1-855-351-2274. Cash App does not currently have a direct customer support phone number that you can call for personalized support.
Q: Does Cash App give away free money?
A: The Cash App team holds periodic sweepstakes on our official Twitter account (https://twitter.com/CashApp) where Cash App customers can win money through Cash App. These sweepstakes never require participants to provide anyone with their sign-in code or PIN. We also never ask customers to send a payment, make a purchase, download any application for “remote access,” or complete a "test" transaction of any kind. All payments are sent from the verified Cash App account, displayed with a blue checkmark. Currently only US residents can participate in this program. For more information on Cash App Fridays, see https://cash.app/legal/us/en-us/supercashappfriday.
Q: Is it safe to send money to people I don’t know?
A: No! Only send payments to people who you trust. For guidance on cancelling a payment, see https://cash.app/help/us/en-us/3051.
Q: Will Cash App Support ask for personal or account information?
A: No! Do not provide anyone with personal information like your Cash App PIN or sign-in code. Cash Support will never ask you to provide your sign-in code, PIN, or other sensitive information like your bank account information. Cash Support will never require you to send a payment, make a purchase, download any application for “remote access,” or complete a "test" transaction of any kind.
Q: Can I dispute a purchase if I pay someone ahead of time?
A: Never pay someone who you don’t trust for something promised to you in the future (like a puppy from an upcoming litter or a lease on a new apartment). Most payments are instant and usually cannot be cancelled. For guidance on disputing a Cash Card purchase, please see https://cash.app/help/us/en-us/309115-cash-card-dispute-purchase. In general, if something sounds too good to be true (like free money in exchange for small payment), it’s a scam.
Fraudsters often attempt to steal customer data and gain access to accounts by pretending to be a Cash App customer service representative. If someone claiming to be a Cash App service representative asks for your sign-in code or PIN, asks for you to send them money, or asks for personal information, it’s a fraudster.
No Cash App service representative will ever ask for your sign-in code over the phone, on social media, or through any other channel. Never give anyone your sign-in code. This unique code helps keep your account safe and secure from scammers and fraudsters.
No Cash App service representative will ever ask for you to send a payment to any Cash App account. There is never a valid reason to send money to an account claiming to be Cash App or Cash App support.
No Cash App service representative will ever ask you to provide sensitive information like your full debit card number, your bank account information, or your Social Security Number. Never provide detailed personal information to anyone purporting to work for Cash App on any channel including the phone, email, social media, or text messages.
If you believe that you have fallen victim to a fraudulent phishing attempt or scam, please change your Cash App PIN immediately and then report the incident by contacting Cash App Support.
How to Recognize and Avoid Scams to Keep Your Money Safe
- Only send payments to people who you trust
- Verify and double-check all recipient information before sending any payment to confirm you are sending money to the correct person
- Don’t send money to someone promising something in the future (like free money in return, for example).
Common Types of Scams
If someone is promising something that sounds too good to be true (e.g., a “hack” or free money in exchange for you sending them a payment first), then it is almost certainly a scam. Always be wary of individuals promising you anything. What scammers do, by and large, is promise you something, take your money, and then never deliver on what they promised. Here is a list of common scams to help you avoid them:
Scammers will claim to have the ability to “flip” your money, promising to increase your money if you first send them funds (sometimes they call this a “clearance fee” or “account verification”). These scammers will accept your funds and then never send you anything in return. If someone is promising you free money in return for sending them a payment, it is a scam.
There are no legitimate businesses that are “flipping cash.” They are all scams.
Sometimes scammers will ask you to “claim” a payment that you “deserve” by sending money to them. These payment-claiming attempts are always scams. Never send money to another person expecting a larger payment in return. Just like with Cash Flipping, if someone is promising you free money in return for sending them a payment, it is a scam.
Moreover, Cash App will never request funds from a customer for any reason. There is no such thing as “claiming” a payment by sending money to Cash App.
Scammers will claim to have an upcoming litter and request a deposit in order to secure one of the puppies or kittens. These scammers usually post fake photos, won’t communicate over the phone, and will offer to sell purebred, highly-sought-after animals at an extremely low price. Since Cash App cannot guarantee a refund if you don't receive what you pay for, it’s safer to send money over Cash App once you meet the buyer in-person and receive whatever has been promised to you.
Don’t send money to someone you don’t know who is promising to deliver you something at a later date. Always verify those you send money to and pay them after you receive that which you purchased.
Scammers often promise a good or service without ever providing proof that it actually exists .This includes promising to find you a cheap apartment, or offering an apartment at a much lower rate than normal, but requiring you to send them a deposit first (e.g., before touring the prospective rental).
Never send money to someone you don’t know who is promising to deliver you something at a later date - like an apartment rental. If you can’t verify who someone is or the legitimacy of what they are offering, it’s probably a scam.
Avoid Fake & Fraudulent Cash App Service Representatives
Cash App does not have a phone number that customers can call to reach Cash App service representatives. If you Google “Cash App Support” and see a phone number that allows you to speak directly with Cash App, it’s a scam. The only genuine Cash App phone number is the automated support line: 1-855-351-2275.
Verified Cash Support can be reached in-app, through cash.app/help, or through a voice connection provided to customers from within Cash App.
All phone numbers claiming to be a direct line to Cash Support are fake. You likely won’t be able to recover funds lost if you give a third party access to your account by calling a fake number and providing sensitive information like your PIN or sign-in code.
Cash App Support will never ask you to provide your sign-in code or PIN, and will never require you to send a payment, make a purchase, download any application for “remote access,” or complete a "test" transaction of any kind.
If someone pretending to work for Cash Support does any of the things above, they’re a scammer trying to gain access to your account and steal your money.
Reporting Phishing Attempts
Phishing is an attempt by a fraudulent actor to collect personal and/or financial information through social media, email, phone, or text message. Victims of phishing scams are sometimes directed to enter their information into fake websites posing as real ones.
Verified emails from Cash App will always come from a @cash.app, @square.com, or @squareup.com address.
If you receive a suspicious social media message, email, text message, or phone call regarding Cash App, or see a phone number that you believe is illegitimate, please contact support through your app or at cash.app/help to report the incident. Cash App will investigate and take necessary actions.
Please note that there are currently no phone numbers that you can find online to call and speak with Cash App Support.
What can I do if I get scammed on Cash App?
Please reach out to our Cash Support team to report scam-related activity on your account. You can find a guide to contacting a Cash service representative through https://cash.app/contact.