Most people use peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo, Cash App and Paypal, or Zelle, a bank account-to-bank-account system, but consumer experts warn these tools do come with risks.
“It’s essentially a cash transaction,” said Joe Fitter, finance senior lecturer at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “There’s really no recourse. There’s really no way of calling back the money once it’s been sent.”
Nerdwallet, a finance company, reports 4 out of 5 Americans use apps P2P payment apps. Experts said one major concern with these systems is the lack of consumer protections.
“What that means is there’s no regular supervision to ensure that these providers are doing everything that they can possibly do to protect consumers from fraud and scams,” said Rachel Gittleman, financial services outreach manager with the Consumer Federation of America.
When your money is in a bank account, experts explain that it is secure. So even if something happens to the bank, your money is still safe. That is not the case for payment apps, which is why experts said to transfer the money into your bank account as soon as possible.
“Those funds are not protected,” Gittleman said. “The P2P apps have the ability per their terms and conditions to freeze and deactivate consumer accounts, and freeze funds.”
Zelle does differ from the other P2P apps because it transfers money from one person’s bank account to another. Experts report there’s a bit more fraud and scam protection with Zelle.
“It’s easier for a scammer or fraudster to create a Venmo or a Paypal account. It’s more difficult to walk into Chase and get a bank account,” Gittleman said. “There’s more fraud and scam protections already at the major banks that are using Zelle.”
Fitter warns users of these payment systems not to give their personal information, including email addresses, to people they don’t know — even if they have a seller-customer relationship. He said that gives bad actors an easy way to send a fake email and eventually gain access to your account.
“Once they have access into the account, then they can of course take your money,” Fitter said.