Better Business Bureau cautions users of personal payment apps that could be scams

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–As Americans spend more time at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, retailers say more people are turning to the Internet for their personal business, which authorities say is leading to more online scams.

They are known as Peer-to-Peer, or P2P, payment applications, such as Zelle, Venmo, and Apple Pay which are gaining in popularity. A consumer links a debit card or bank account to the payment portal to purchase merchandise, or pay a debt.

Alyssa Bartlomiejczak was trying to buy a pet for her one year old daughter using Google Pay, the peer-to-peer smartphone app.

The Orchard Park mother said the cost of the puppy was $950, but at the last minute she got an email identified as the air carrier for the puppy, demanding $1,300 for shipping. Bartlomiejczak used prepaid debit cards to cover the shipping, but eventually, she recognized the scheme as an elaborate hoax.

Alyssa returned to the store where she purchased the debit cards, “I’m like I’ve got to get this money off your cards as soon as possible. Like I am getting scammed. All my money is gone, literally all the money I have to my name, I don’t have no more money anymore because of these people.”

Bartlomiejczak contacted Google Pay to try to get her money back, she also contacted her bank, and filed a police report.

Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau said more people are conducting personal business online, such as looking for and buying pets, and the scammers know that.

“These puppy websites are very elaborate. They show videos of the puppies, they show photos of the puppies. All of the puppies have names.”

For their part, a representative for Google Pay sent an email saying, “If Google Pay detects that a user is sending money to someone for the first time, it does provide a warning that asks the user to verify the contact of the person they are sending money to.”

The message warns the user, “fraudulent transactions may result in the loss of your money with no recorse.” The representative also advises customers to turn to their bank for assistance.

The Better Business Bureau warns consumers to only use Peer-to-Peer payment apps with people you know, such as friends and family, and if a seller insists you use a P2P app such as Zelle, Venmo, or Apple Pay, or Google Pay, chances are it is a scam.

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