Using Venmo to Receive Freelance Payments? You’re Risking Everything

Cropped shot of a man using a laptop and a cellphone
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If you’re using the same Venmo account to repay your friend who covered the tab after a night of drinking and to request payments for your side gig clients, you might want to stop. Immediately.

According to a report from Consumerist.com, skirting the rules laid out in the terms and conditions of peer-to-peer apps could mean losing out on cash with no protection if you’re ever a victim of a scam.

The Verge laid out a perfect example of how this can happen through a story about a group of California photographers who were scammed out of $25,000 in camera equipment.

A scammer, who went by the name Andy Mai, used Venmo to pay for cameras the photographers were selling online. Likely using stolen credit cards, the scammer transferred thousands of dollars into the victims’ Venmo accounts. Once the victims saw the money, they thought it was OK to hand over the equipment.

Within 24 hours, the cameras were gone, the Venmo accounts of the scammer and the sellers were suspended, and Venmo stopped the stolen money, some of which had already been transferred to the sellers’ bank accounts.

And the sellers had little recourse.

“Venmo is designed for payments between friends and people who trust each other,” a representative told The Verge. “We strongly caution Venmo users to avoid payments with people they don’t know, especially if it involves the sale for goods and services (like event tickets and Craigslist items).”

“These payments are potentially high risk, and can result in losing your money without getting what you paid for.”

Got a Side Gig? Here’s What This Means for You

Here’s the deal: If you’ve got a side hustle or you’re a full-time freelancer, the idea of giving up a percentage of your hard-earned cash just to use a merchant app like PayPal or Venmo’s business tool can seem unfair.

You worked hard for this money. The 2.9% plus 30 cents PayPal wants from you can feel like too much.

But according to Consumerist, it’s simply the cost of peace of mind. When you use a peer-to-peer payment app instead of a merchant app — even if it’s just to sell your old camera after upgrading to a new one — you’re taking a risk that could cost you big.

Here’s the bottom line: A good Penny Hoarder saves where they can, but it’s not really saving if you’re risking your cash with every transaction.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.