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Consumer Alert: Attorney General Moody Warns of Payment App Hack Attacks

November 11, 2021

Attorney General Ashley Moody is warning consumers about hackers taking advantage of the increase in mobile payment app usage. The COVID-19 pandemic may have prompted more people to use mobile payments rather than transfer cash, or even credit cards, between individuals to prevent the spread of germs.

In 2019, 64 million individuals in the United States used peer-to-peer mobile payments. There are now more than 92 million individuals using peer-to-peer mobile payments and that number is expected to surpass 100 million by the end of 2021. More than 25% of all point-of-sale transactions in 2020 were made using a mobile wallet. This increase of mobile payments could continue with the holidays approaching. Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “Mobile payment app usage is on the rise and with the rapid increase in the popularity of these apps, comes the potential for hackers and scammers to attempt to interrupt transactions. Please be careful when using these apps and take steps to ensure the money you are sending goes to the intended recipient and not to a scammer.”

According to reports, a retired couple, Sturm and his wife Aviva from Boynton Beach were victims of a mobile payment app hack. A hacker registered the couple for a Venmo account without the couple’s knowledge and siphoned off $1,500 a week until the bank account was completely drained.Sturm and his wife Aviva said they had no idea hackers had been stealing from their bank account from March until June of this year.

"We found out when we paid the rent and it bounced," Alan said. How had the hacker done it? The Sturms said their bank account information apparently was used set up a Venmo account. Venmo is a virtual wallet you use to pay people- usually friends and family members for relatively small things like dinner or a tip.

And then they said money from their account was transferred by Venmo to someone else. But the Sturms said they’ve never used Venmo at all.

To prevent mobile payment app hacks, Attorney General Moody is providing the following tips to help Floridians use mobile payment apps safely and securely:
• Create a second bank account with limited funds to connect to mobile payment applications;

• Register a credit card rather than a bank account or a debit card as credit cards provide extra user protections;

• Regularly review financial statements to check for signs of fraudulent transactions; and

• Verify that money being sent is going to the correct recipient.

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