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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > August 2019 > Scammers Take Advantage Of “Peer-to-Peer” Payment Methods

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Scammers Take Advantage Of “Peer-to-Peer” Payment Methods

Many consumers throughout Ohio know to never wire money or use prepaid money cards or gift cards as payment methods with strangers. Scammers often choose these payment methods because once they receive the money, it is virtually impossible for consumers to trace or reverse the charges. Some con artists also use fake checks, trying to pass off a counterfeit business or cashier’s check as legitimate. Based on complaints throughout the country, “peer-to-peer” payment methods are also becoming popular among scammers.

Peer-to-peer services give consumers the ability to transfer funds online or through an app directly from their bank account. Scammers are taking advantage of these payment services by accepting money for products such as popular event tickets and then failing to deliver the tickets. Scammers quickly close out their accounts once they have received the money so it cannot be recovered.

Popular services like Venmo and Zelle may work perfectly well when transferring money to a close friend or family member, but watch out if a stranger wants you to use that type of payment method. Also, be aware that different payment methods have different levels of consumer protections against fraud.

Zelle, a system that is used to help many banks’ customers transfer funds, includes the following on its website:

“Zelle is a great way to send money to friends, family or others you trust such as your personal trainer, babysitter, or a neighbor. If you don’t know the person, or aren’t sure you will get what you paid for (for example, items bought from an on-line bidding or sales site), we recommend you do not use Zelle for these types of transactions, which are potentially high risk.”

So, before you buy those tickets to the latest sold-out concert or sporting event, follow these tips:
  • Be skeptical of offers that are too good to be true. Sellers on Craigslist or other online marketplaces may offer tickets at face value (or below) for events that are sold out or in high demand, but these offers may be scams. Some may offer phony explanations for why they need to sell tickets quickly, for example, saying they have a medical emergency.
  • Be careful dealing with individual third-party sellers. To protect yourself, deal with reputable businesses instead of third-party individuals who are not associated with an event. Before providing any payment or personal information, research a seller’s reputation, especially that of an individual seller. Search the seller’s name, username, email address, phone number, and other details for information. Even if you find no negative information, don’t assume the seller is trustworthy. Some con artists change names regularly.
  • Check the venue’s ticket policies. Increasingly, a number of venues and events predominantly use electronic tickets. If you’re trying to buy a paper ticket, make sure it’s real. Check both sides of the ticket, and be aware that some ticket scammers use falsified photos, logos or trademarks to create counterfeit tickets that look legitimate even though they are not. 
  • Be wary of sellers who request specific forms of payment. Con artists often request payment methods that are difficult to trace or recover, such as wire transfers, cash, or gift cards. They also may ask buyers to use money-transfer apps or other payment options such as peer-to-peer systems like Venmo or Zelle that may not carry specific fraud protections.
  • Consider paying with a credit card. If a problem arises, you generally have greater ability to dispute charges on a credit card compared to other payment methods. If you’re using a mobile wallet or peer-to-peer payment service, be sure to understand the protections that the service does (or does not) provide before you make a transaction. 
Consumers who believe they’ve been defrauded should immediately report the scam and contact the company they used to make the payment. Ohioans can report scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or by calling 800-282-0515. Suspicious Craigslist ads can be reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office directly from Craigslist.