Think before you click this holiday season: Payment app fraud is a real thing

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payment app fraud
Don't fall victim to payment app fraud this holiday season. (Photo: Getty)

It's bittersweet, but every technological advance that makes our lives easier also ushers in unprecedented dangers. So it goes with online payment apps: They enable one-click shopping with major online retailers and make friendly transactions a piece of cake. But there’s a lot of money changing hands on payment apps — and ample opportunity for scammers to intercept your account.

The holiday season is bearing down on us, and spikes in e-commerce activity provide alluring opportunities for scammers to prey on consumers' payment apps. One way to avoid duped by a scam is to enlist Malwarebytes Premium software. It warns you when you accidentally visit malicious or fraudulent websites that contain threats like phishing scams, tech support scams and malicious advertising.

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Know what you’re up against and how to avoid getting taken this holiday season. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common types of payment app fraud.

Scam #1: “Account Problems”

Beware of this scam: you get an ominous email telling you that your account has been frozen or is in danger of being suspended, telling you to click on a provided link ASAP to set things right. Well...don’t, according to Ruston Miles, Founder and Advisor at Bluefin, a payment encryption company.

Instead, go straight to the horse’s mouth (i.e., your payment app's website) to see if it’s the real thing. "I just go and log in myself and go to the messaging center," he tells AOL. "I click and see, 'Okay, they did send me a message, great.'" If not, delete that email immediately.

payment apps
Venmo or Ven-NO? Make sure you're doing business with the real thing. (Photo: Getty)

Scam #2 Advance Payment Fraud

Another scam involves getting a message, allegedly from someone you know, informing you of a big payday coming your way: an inheritance, lawsuit payout, contest winnings or “found money” of some kind. The catch: you first need to pay a “processing fee.”

Ruston suggests doing due diligence by going "out of band" — i.e. responding to the sender using another platform. "If I get a message like that in an email, I might go to their LinkedIn page instead and say, 'Hey, I got an email about that thing — that was you, right?'"

It probably wasn’t. Two things to remember: 1) You should never have to pay money to get paid, and 2) As Ruston puts it:,"There are no free lunches on the internet."

Scam #3: Charitable contribution and investment scams

Watch out for this scam, where scammers research personal information about you; lifting info gleaned from our social media pages. Then they send bogus charity appeals targeting your interests. Why does it work?

"People give because they think, 'Oh, well, it’s only five or ten bucks,'" says Ruston. "The problem is if you get ensnared by one of those things, they may a) try it again because now they see you as a gullible or b) have gotten ahold of certain account information about you and can later attempt a full account takeover or an identity theft." So verify the source of any fundraising messages (check that URL!), and do your giving through official organization websites.

Malwarebytes Premium is state-of-the-art software that adds a much-needed layer of protection to these kinds of phishing scams and includes extra layers of web protection that blocks users from clicking through to malicious phishing sites and email links.

Try Malwarebytes Premium free for 30 days*