SHILOH, Ill. — Smartphone apps are supposed to make our lives easier. There's an app for almost every need, want or whim.
But one Shiloh, Illinois, mother said one app meant to manage money left her broke. She said she used Cash App, an app that acts like a bank account by storing your money in an online account, as opposed to a traditional bank.
Weeks ago, all the money she had in the world — stored in Cash App — disappeared. And her story gets even more tragic when she describes her daily struggle to simply stay alive.
Tianna Miller loves her life. That's why she's fighting for it.
"I've been sick non-stop for a year now. My kidneys are failing," said Miller, a 27-year-old mother who has end-stage renal disease.
For Miller, that means painful dialysis for four hours, three times a week. She also has a 1-year-old daughter who was born prematurely.
And if that wasn't tough enough, she's found herself fighting for her life savings.
Her money was stored in a very popular service called Cash App. It's the Apple App Store's No. 1 finance app with millions of users.
"You can use it to pay bills online, and whatever. Just like a regular debit card," said Miller, who began using it to transfer money between family members.
So what's the advantage of using a service like Cash App?
"It's easy to send someone money from your mobile phone, often for lower fees and lower expenses rather if you were to do a bank transfer," said Cliff Smith, an Ethical Hacker and Cyber Security Expert.
But recently Miller also discovered a big disadvantage.
It happened when her money stopped flowing at a very inconvenient moment.
"I was literally on 'E', I tried to use it on gas, and they told me my card was invalid. I was like 'I know I have money on my card,'" said Miller.
But when she checked, there didn't seem to be a Cash App customer service number, just an email address which she used, again and again.
"No one was responding back. I had plans on getting medication that's like $200. I'm on a fixed income. What can I do right now?" said Miller.
So Miller did some digging online, frantically searching for a customer service number for the company. Finally, It appeared she'd found one with a friendly voice on the other end of the line.
First, he took some basic information from her.
"He said 'Ma'am it looks like your money is stuck on the server,'" said Miller.
And he had a solution to "unstick" the server.
"To get my money back, I'd have to send them $500," said Miller.
Miller thought it was odd.
"I was kinda willing to do what they were telling me to do because I was thinking it was legit," said Miller.
So she rounded up the cash, put it on a store-bought debit card and gave the representative the card number over the phone.
There was just one problem.
That phone number Miller found? It wasn't Cash App, but scammers posing as Cash App. Turns out, it's a common cyber swindle.
Here's how it works: crooks find a company that doesn't have a customer service number and then post a phone number somewhere online claiming to be that business.
Then, they wait for people to find it.
"They google 'Facebook customer support' or 'Gmail customer support' and they're immediately in touch with someone whose goal is to steal their account," said Smith.
And in Miller's case, that's exactly what happened. Besides conning her out of $500 in that moment, the scammers drained her Cash App account.
"All my funds were wiped out. It's just gone," said Miller.
Eventually, the real Cash App answered Miller's emails.
A week later they returned her money, but Miller still worries about what new fights she may have to face.
"I feel violated, someone knows my information. It just made my life a million times harder," said Miller.
A spokesperson for Cash App confirmed they only communicate with customers via email. They also say they are always working to educate their customers about phishing scams.
Cash App gives tips on how to spot phony Cash App phone numbers and phony emails too. Cash App also says if anyone asks for your pin or your login code, then it's not Cash App, so don't answer them.