A scammer is using the highly popular funds sharing app Venmo to steal thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment. It appears that the thief operates inside of Facebook Marketplaces and seems to be targeting videography professionals in the Los Angeles area.
In a story first broke by The Verge, dozens of people have come forward and claimed to have been scammed by the same user, or users, all of whom are using the alias Andy Mai. To this point, there have been four confirmed scammed individuals totaling in $25,000 worth of camera equipment, though it's quite easily much higher than that. Some estimates are as high as $100,000 in unconfirmed claims.
Our story starts with Rasa who was selling a Blackmagic USRA Mini 4.6K for $1,500. When Mai contacted him and they made their arrangements, the criminal insisted on using Venmo, but the first clue to deception was the way that the payments came in. Instead of one payment of $1,500, Rasa received over a dozen of payments at $80 and $90. However, all of the money was inside of his account, so he didn't feel he had a legitimate reason to deny the sell of his camera. It was only a day later that his initial intuition proved to be correct. Rasa's account had been frozen and the funds removed from his account. When he reached out to Venmo, they simply informed him that he had broken their user policy by exchanging goods for money.
It wasn't long until there was another victim, Brendan. He was selling a Sony DSLR and several thousands of dollars worth of lenses. The same set of suspicious circumstances arrived, but again, the money was in his account, so he went on with the transaction. The only difference was the man who traded with Brendan was a different person, but again, using the same name. Both Brendan and Rasa reached out on Facebook to find others who may have been scammed as well. They were greeted by over 20 others who claimed to have been scammed by Mai in the previous two weeks.
It's only speculation at this point, but it appears each person was paid with stolen credit and debit cards, only to have those transactions canceled shortly thereafter. If that's the case, this is a simple scam that turns quickly canceled credit cards, and their transactions, into a tangible piece of expensive and easily resalable equipment.
Brendan believes it's Venmo's lack of anti-fraud measures that are to blame, however, Venmo is quick to point out that their service is intended for monetary exchange between friends and others you feel you can trust. What are your thoughts? Have you been similarly scammed on Venmo or another electronic paying service?
[via The Verge]