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If payment is sent to wrong person on Venmo, how do you get it back?: Money Matters

March 21, 2018 GMT

If payment is sent to wrong person on Venmo, how do you get it back?: Money Matters

Q: I owed a friend money for some repairs he did on my car (and parts he bought). I wasn’t able to pay him the day I picked up my car. He said I could just send him the $350 electronically through Venmo. But I accidentally sent the money to the wrong person -- a person with the same name but a different Venmo user name. How do I get my money back?K.W., Lakewood

A: When you contacted me last week, I jumped on this right away because time was a factor.

For those who don’t know, Venmo is a 9-year-old service owned by PayPal that allows two parties to exchange money in near real-time without using checks or cash or anything. The really nice thing about Venmo is that if you have an account registered with Venmo, you can exchange money with someone else who has a Venmo account without exchanging bank account numbers or credit or debit card numbers or even the name of your bank.

In fact, all you need to pay someone is his phone number or email address that he registered with Venmo. Or you can use his user name. But that’s not recommended, for the reasons you found. If you try to send the money to Steve Moore, there are probably tons of Steve Moores, with similar user names, such as stevemoore1, stevemoore2, etc.

In order to get your money back, you have to message the recipient and explain that a mistake was made and hope the person is honest and returns the money. That’s what I advised you to do, and it worked out, thankfully.

I think Venmo is great, for many reasons, starting with the privacy protections. But I always recommend that if you’re sending money to someone for the first time, then you should have the person send YOU a request for the money using your email address or phone number. No one is going to pay a request that isn’t legit. If the person enters the information properly, you’ll get the request and, if the amount is correct, then you can pay it.

This is much better than paying someone using a user name, phone number or email address. Careless typing can send your money to the wrong place. Instead, get the request, then pay it.

Venmo is generally as safe as the user is, although I’m not a fan of the app. Overall, Venmo is better than writing a check to an individual. It can be better than paying in cash, which is more difficult to prove that payment has been made.

You can choose to fund any Venmo payments you make through a credit card or bank account. If you use a credit card, there’s a fee. If you use a bank account, no fee. If you link a bank account, do not EVER agree to allow Venmo to verify your bank account by giving Venmo your bank account log-in credentials -- your username and password. You shouldn’t trust any third party with that information. Ever. Instead, allow Venmo to make two small deposits into your account (like 17 cents and 22 cents) and then you can verify with Venmo the amounts that were deposited.  

Q: I’m retired and I try to follow your advice about keeping accounts safe. I’ve frozen my credit reports with all four bureaus. I do no banking over the internet. I am not on any social media sites. I contacted Social Security and they put some sort of a freeze on my info, so I feel pretty safe.

My question comes from my credit score from Discover. Since they started including it with their statements a few years ago, my score has always been between 800 and 812. On my last statement, it dropped to the 790s, even though my charges for the last two months have really decreased. And I never carry a balance. Should I be concerned that something without my knowledge is going on with my accounts? Why would it go down with no new activity (no new accounts, no accounts closed) and my monthly charges decreased (as percentage of credit limits)?

M.V., Cleveland

A: You should always be alert if something could be amiss. But I wouldn’t necessarily worry or act because my credit score dropped by 10 points or so. Credit scores are like weight. You can be up a pound or down a pound day by day, for almost any reason.

You don’t mention other issues. Do you have other cards? Did you recently have a credit inquiry? Or maybe it’s been “too long” since you paid an installment loan like a mortgage or car loan. If you hit the 10-year anniversary of paying off a loan, for example, it could drop your score a hair because there’s less recent history to gauge. If you haven’t done so in the past year, request at least one of your credit reports, at no charge, by calling 1-877-322-8228 (easiest route) or going online to www.annualcreditreport.com. Then, in a few months, request one from another credit bureau.

If your credit score falls by more than another 10 points and doesn’t go back up, then you need to go on offense. Contact me; I’ll help.