Cash App complaints on the rise as scams pose as customer service

"The fake customer service scam has probably been going on for at least a year, not necessarily as it relates to Cash App, but to many other companies," said Lori Wilson, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau's San Francisco Bay Area office.

BySarah Rafique KTRK logo
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Customers say thousands stolen as scammers pose as Cash App
This year, through October, there have been 3,307 complaints mentioning Cash App sent to the FTC, although not all of them involve scammers posing as customer service.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Tamika Waddle spent months throughout the pandemic taking on extra assignments across the U.S. as a travel nurse in labor and delivery. She said she finally saved up $17,000, enough for a down payment to move her and her two sons into a better neighborhood.

Waddle said she lost $17,000 after falling for a scam while trying to send her god sister money on Cash App. Even though she said she was eventually able to recover about $11,000 from some of the other mobile payment apps the scammer accessed on her phone, Waddle said it still put her plans to move on hold.

"Everything was lined up perfectly until that incident," Waddle said.

Cash App is one of many popular tools used by millions across the U.S. to send money to other people. Two months ago, Waddle said she tried to transfer $3,000 to her god sister, but when it didn't go through, her god sister called a customer service number she found online that she thought was for Cash App. Waddle said her god sister spoke with someone, not knowing the person was posing as being with Cash App, and they said they would call her.

When that person, posing as the company's customer service, called Waddle to help her transfer money to her god sister. Waddle said they were able to see all her mobile payment apps and soon the money she'd been saving up for months was gone.

Waddle said the person on the other end of the phone told her to download an app that would allow them to see her screen. She said after she downloaded it, she followed the other person's instructions, but quickly realized they were having her transfer money out of her accounts.

Waddle said Cash App initially refunded her about $6,000 when she told them about the unauthorized activity on her account, but then reversed the decision. After pressing her claim, she said the company re-opened the investigation, which remains pending.

"The fake customer service scam has probably been going on for at least a year, not necessarily as it relates to Cash App, but to many other companies," Lori Wilson, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau's San Francisco Bay Area office, told 13 Investigates. "We probably heard about the fake customer service with Cash App, I'm going to guess maybe in the last six months or so."

13 Investigates first reported on the issues with scammers posing as Cash App customer service in September 2018. Since then, dozens of users across the nation have reached out with similar complaints, but we found few solutions once a customer loses money to this type of scam.

Annette Allizzo, in Florida, told 13 Investigates she also fell for someone posing as Cash App customer service and ended up giving scammers her personal Cash App sign on information. When she realized it was a scammer, it was too late. She said the whole thing happened in about five minutes and she was out about $960.

Cash App does not have phone customer service, and provides a phone number - 855-351-2274 - on its website with automated instructions. Callers will hear an automated message that tells them to visit the app to contact customer service. Currently, the message also offers a warning to callers that people will often try to impersonate its employees.

"I think they need a customer service line with the business that they're doing every day. I really do. I feel like this is disheartening," said Allizzo, whose bank initially credited her the funds. She said her bank later reversed it and said she needed to reach out to Cash App for a refund. In an email, Cash App told her it did "not have enough evidence to determine the activity was unauthorized and have denied your claim."

Allizzo said she reported the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

This year, through October, there have been 3,307 complaints mentioning Cash App sent to the FTC, although not all of them involve scammers posing as customer service.

An exact summary detailing each complaint was not provided in response to our open records request. The FTC said reviewing that number of complaints to remove personal information would be "an undue burden."

Still, the FTC did provide summaries for 100 complaints since October 2019.

About 72% of the complaints we were provided involved a lack of customer service, with 20% involving instances where the consumer says someone claiming to be with Cash App stole money from their account. Those 20 consumers say they were scammed out of $15,530 combined.

In one consumer complaint to the FTC from someone in Utah, the person says they called a number they found online, seemingly for Cash App.

"The man I talked to told me to download a (screen share app), then after doing that, the money in my Cash App was gone and he hung up on me," the consumer wrote in the complaint that was filed last November. "I tried calling after that and he kept rejecting my call, so I emailed Cash App and they replied saying they don't have any human customer represntative (sic)...that was the moment I realized I've been scammed. I don't know what to do now, that money was all I had."

At least one person from all 50 states, and even a customer in Mexico and another in England, reported complaints to the FTC that mentioned Cash App since October 2019. The amount of money involved in those complaints totals up to $3.3 million.

The agency points out, however, that not all of the complaints are necessarily against Cash App.

"When you read the complaint, it's not really about Cash App, it may be about a person who they may be trying to purchase goods through Cash App," the FTC said. "It may get flagged for Cash App, when in reality it's not really a Cash App problem."

Our review of the complaints provided by the FTC shows complaints about a scammer posing to work for the company, someone sending money to a scammer using the mobile payment app but never receiving what they were promised in return, and claims that the company does not have enough security methods in place.

Complaints to the FTC mentioning Cash App started increasing once the pandemic hit and peaked in September, with 811 complaints.

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There's also been 2,987 overall complaints about Cash App to the BBB over the last 12 months, with nearly 400 customer reviews, giving Cash App a score of 1.09 out of five stars. The number of complaints relating to scammers posing as customer service is unclear.

The BBB said it works with Cash App to resolve complaints.

Cash App has an "A+" rating with the BBB.

"A company doesn't get penalized because they're being victimized by scammers, in their grade," Wilson said. "Unfortunately when an individual gives their information to a scammer and they're getting money pulled out of Cash App or any other payment app, or for any other reason, when they go to buy gift cards, I mean, they're not getting their money back. There's not a lot that we can do."

13 Investigates reached out to Cash App and its parent company, Square, Inc., about the individuals we spoke with for this story, as well as the thousands of complaints to the FTC and BBB. Cash App declined an interview, but a Square, Inc. spokesperson provided the following statement in response to all of 13 Investigates' questions without addressing any of the specific individuals or complaints: "Preventing fraud is critically important to Cash App. We continue to invest in and bolster fraud-fighting resources by both increasing staffing and adopting new technology. We are constantly improving systems and controls to help prevent, detect, and report bad activity on the platform."

The company also told us it is constantly working on educating consumers. In an email, the company told us it actively monitors major online platforms for scams and as a result has been able to get fraudulent pages with fake Cash App customer service numbers taken down.

Wilson, with the BBB, told us it is common for larger tech companies to only handle customer service via the internet.

"The hard part honestly is when people want that phone number, oftentimes they're in the midst of something (being) wrong. They need help. They want the help," Wilson said. "And scammers, I have learned, are very good at what they do. ... They're going to get you comfortable and they're going to try to get that information."

Cash App would not comment on why it does not have a customer service line where users can directly speak with the company on the phone to resolve issues with the app.

Cash App advises that customers only use the app itself or the company's website to get help. The company says customer service will never ask you to send a payment to another account and will never ask for sensitive information, such as your full debit card number, bank account information or social security, so do not provide that information to avoid being scammed.

Cash App also has detailed information online offering tips on how to avoid scams.

'Frantic moment'

13 Investigates gets calls and emails from Cash App customers across the U.S. nearly every week, claiming they've been scammed by people posing as Cash App customer service.

Karen Kelley, who lives in Lexington, Kentucky, reached out to 13 Investigates in September after saying she fell for the fake customer service scam. She was out $650 before she realized what was happening and it was too late.

"You're in this frantic moment," Kelley said. "Your heart drops into your stomach and you're like 'oh my God' and your bills are going through your mind and how am I going to bet this back? It was devastating."

Kelley says her bank was able to recover some of the money lost.

Wilson, whose BBB office handles complaints against Cash App since the company is headquartered in San Francisco, California, said she encourages victims to report instances online so the information can be collected and shared with regulators.

It's unclear whether the FTC is taking any action to crack down on scammers posing online as Cash App.

An FTC employee told 13 Investigates that consumer complaints filed with the federal agency go into a database, but the company the allegations are against or mention isn't necessarily notified.

There's no set number of complaints that are required in order to launch an investigation and the FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, but instead works for the consumer as a whole, the agency said.

"It's more along the lines of how egregious the behavior is and how frequent the egregious behavior happens," the FTC employee told us.

How to protect yourself

Wilson said some scammers will take out advertisements, prioritizing them at the top of search engines, which can put customers as risk.

"If you're using your Alexa or any of those voice recorded opportunities to get information, you are finding that they're going to often pull for you, if there is a fake customer service number, they're going to pull that for you because that scam company has paid to be on top of the list," Wilson said. "We don't really stop to think about it. ... You're just looking at it very quickly, clicking the number and calling."

Instead of calling the first customer service number that comes up in your online search, or voice search, Wilson recommends consumers take time to make sure the number they are calling is actually associated with the company they are trying to reach.

Wilson also recommends that if you use a peer-to-peer mobile payment app, try not to link it to your bank information to it, but instead use a credit card so you can utilize the additional protections that credit cards offer in case you're scammed.

She also suggests making sure you have a password for your phone and your mobile payment apps, that way if you lose your phone, it'll make it harder to access.

"It happens instantly. So if you're talking to the scammer and you do give them your password, they're talking to you and somebody else," she said. "They could still be talking to you and the money's gone."

If you think you've been scammed, Cash App recommends changing your PIN immediately and reporting the incident to customer support through the app or website.

Some of the tips include:

  • Only sending money to people you trust
  • Verifying who you want to send the money to before sending it to make sure it's the right person
  • Do not send money to people with the promise of getting something in return, for example don't sent someone a small sum of money if they say they will send you more money in return

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