Before discussing how to avoid a P2P scam, you may be wondering what “P2P” stands for. A peer-to-peer (P2P) service is a decentralized platform whereby two individuals interact directly with each other, without intermediation by a third party. Instead, the buyer and the seller transact directly with each other via the P2P service. Google Wallet, PayPal, Snapcash, Venmo and Bitcoin are examples of P2P services.
P2P platforms are super-convenient. But, P2P scams are rampant and varied. Plus, once money is transferred by P2P, it’s usually gone forever.
Here are five P2P scams to beware of:
1. Mystery money
In this P2P scam, a stranger “accidentally” sends the target money and then reaches out, wanting their money back. The target sees these funds in their P2P account and returns them. Unfortunately, though, because this money was added to the target’s account using a stolen credit card or account, the platform flags the original transaction as fraud and removes the funds from the victim’s account.
2. Hidden credit card fraud
In this P2P scam, a fraudster purchases an item listed on a site, like Craigslist, using a P2P service. They’ll pick up the item, or have it shipped to their home, and they’ll never be heard from again. Meanwhile, the P2P platform will eventually recognize the funds for the purchase come from a bogus source, and will take the money back from the seller.
3. Utility scams
In this scam, a “rep” from a utility company reaches out to a target, claiming their service will be shut off unless a payment is made immediately. The scammer insists on payment by P2P. Unfortunately, once the transfer is made, it can be impossible to reclaim the money.
4. Password scam
In this scam, an alleged representative of a credit union or bank will reach out to a target by text, asking them to approve a recent large P2P transfer from their account. A “no” response will prompt the scammer to call the victim. Posing again as a rep of their financial institution, they’ll offer to assist in reclaiming the allegedly frauded money. To do so, the scammer claims the victim will need to share their Zelle login credentials. Unfortunately, if the victim shares the one-time passcode, the scammer can change the password and send themselves money through the victim’s account.
5. Bogus receipts
Here, a scammer will insert themselves into a legitimate P2P transaction by digitally manipulating a screenshot to make it appear as if they have completed a part of an ongoing deal and insisting you now owe them money. In truth, though, the transaction was never completed and, if you send the money, you’ll be sending it directly to a scammer’s P2P account.
- Only send and accept funds from people you know and trust.
- Never give out your passwords/pins/challenge response tokens to anyone.
- Use strong passwords and don’t reuse them across any accounts.
- Use 2 Factor Authentication.
- Don’t use guest or unsecured networks when doing transactions or logging into accounts.
- Always confirm you’re interacting with the correct person by verifying their phone number at every stage of the P2P transaction process.
- Call the P2P platform’s customer service number directly to resolve any errors. Similarly, reach out to High Point Federal Credit Union directly if you receive notification of an allegedly frauded account.
- Check your checking account after every P2P transaction to confirm that you’ve received the funds.