Cash App fraud up over 300% — what you need to know

Cash App
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Reports of fraud on mobile-payment service Cash App are up more than 300% from this time last year, according to the latest figures from mobile-intelligence provider Apptopia

If you thought that made for bleak reading, several Cash App users told Yahoo Finance that they lost thousands of dollars after their Cash App accounts were hacked. All recounted how difficult it was to find a human customer-service representative when they called Cash App about the missing funds.

"It's almost like an abusive relationship where you're trying to get ahold of somebody and they're completely ghosting you," said one Cash App user, a young mother from Utah who said her account was drained of nearly $3,000 overnight. 

As a result of the lost funds, she said she had to sell the car seat for a baby she's expecting in order to feed the kids she has already.

A California businessman told Yahoo Finance that scammers created fake refunds involving his Cash App account to move money from his regular bank account, then stole $21,000 from his Cash App account to buy Bitcoins.

COVID-19 has spurred a raft of Cash App downloads following the shift to remote working. Perhaps unsurprisingly, because the app links to your bank accounts and payment cards, it’s also led to a rise in customer reviews alleging fraud, scams, and a wave of other reports of crooks taking advantage of the increased dependency on these apps.

For those not acquainted with the service, Cash App is one member of a motley crew of peer-to-peer (P2P) mobile payment services, such as Zelle and Venmo

These have become popular digital payment solutions as they facilitate everyday payments between friends and family and help customers stay on top of their banking. But they've also become a breeding ground for ne'er-do-wells intent on fleecing you of your hard-earned cash.

'Live phone support is generally not available'

A Bay Area college student told Yahoo Finance that he still hasn't been able to get a Cash App support rep on the phone, despite having lost $1,850 to scammers who got around the two-factor authentication (2FA) and transaction PIN he had enabled on his account.

Cash App told Yahoo Finance that if you call its customer-support number — 1 (855) 351-2274 — you get a recording telling you to contact customer service through the app.  

"Live phone support is generally not available at this time," said the recorded message when Tom's Guide called the number at 3 p.m. Eastern time on a Monday.

The young mother told Yahoo Finance that if you try to get help through the app, all you can do is leave a message and hope that Cash App customer service calls you back.

Yes, this can get worse

Crooks have noticed this lack of customer support and rushed in to take advantage of it, said WRIC-TV in Richmond, Virginia. They've engaged in what's called "search poisoning" to make sure fake Cash App customer-service numbers rise to the top of Google search results. 

One Cash App user to whom Yahoo Finance spoke said after he noticed $300 missing from his account, he called what he thought was the Cash App customer help line. But the fake service representative on the other end of the call proceeded to steal $1,600 more.

In other cases, such as those cited by WTVD-TV of Raleigh, North Carolina, scammers are directly calling Cash App users and pretending to be Cash App customer service. They offer to help users move money around — and just end up taking money away.

If your bank was just a mobile app

Unfortunately for Cash App — which accounts for nearly half of parent company Square's profits — it also lets customers receive paychecks, tax refunds and other direct deposits directly into the service. Cash App also issues physical debit cards and lets users invest in stocks and buy and sell Bitcoins directly from the app.

For customers who take advantage of such functions, Cash App is essentially functioning as a bank, but with far looser regulations. There's no equivalent of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which underwrites bank accounts, to make sure Cash App account holders can't lose all their money.

All this means Cash App open to the widest range of attack vectors among mobile-payment apps.

According to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the agency has "received 1,559 complaints concerning Square, under which any Cash App complaints are filed. The majority of which involved money transfer, virtual currency, or money services issues."

That's more than any other peer-to-peer service and distinguished by customers' repeated efforts — and relentless failure — to talk to a human being at Cash App once fraud had been committed. 

Although the company has acknowledged the lack of live phone support, it probably does little to appease customers who've lost money to the tune of the tens of thousands.

While the app is best known for its #CashAppFriday promotions, which offer giveaways to the first intake of users who retweet or respond to Cash App's social posts, you're also not safe here, either, with various reports of these promotions being exploited by scammers

How can you protect your Cash App account?

After Yahoo Finance contacted Cash App about what the users it had spoken to went through, the company reached out to the Bay Area student and the California businessman to offer to help them recover some of the lost funds. 

The young mother in Utah said Cash App has paid her back all her lost money. But the man who lost $1,600 to the fake customer-service line has not gotten any money back, and says both Cash App and his regular bank consider the matter closed.

The best advice at this stage may be to stop using Cash App until it gets a handle on its fraud problem. If you still need to use Cash App, then make sure the balance in your account is low so that there's not much to steal.

Luke Wilson

Luke is a Trainee News Writer at T3 and contributor to Tom's Guide, having graduated from the DMU/Channel 4 Journalism School with an MA in Investigative Journalism. Before switching careers, he worked for Mindshare WW. When not indoors messing around with gadgets, he's a disc golf enthusiast, keen jogger, and fond of all things outdoors.