A Florida woman who thought she was helping a child find his parents by letting him use her phone this weekend reportedly became the victim of a crime when the boy allegedly used the woman’s Venmo account to steal money.
According to local TV station WESH, while walking her dog in an Orlando park on Saturday, Shannon Fraser said she was approached by a boy who asked to use her phone because his battery was dead. Fraser said he told her that he needed her device to make a call because he was lost, unable to locate his family and friends. Fraser agreed to let the boy use her phone but the child allegedly used her kindness against her in order to steal thousands of dollars.
Fraser said she monitored the call on speakerphone, adding that she was only a foot or so away. She told WESH that she heard the boy, who appeared to be around 12 years old, say at one point, “I can’t find you guys.” At that point, Fraser said the boy asked for permission to open her maps app. Fraser said that he could and soon the call was over and both parties went on their way.
But on Monday, Foster received a rather startling message from her bank.
“I get alerts from my bank that my two Venmo transfers were approved. One was in the amount of $1,800. The other one was in the amount of $2,000,” she said. “And that’s when I stopped dead in my tracks.”
In shock over the large sums of money that had been withdrawn from her account, Fraser reached out to Venmo. After speaking with Venmo representatives, she learned that the account to which her money had been transferred had allegedly been created a mere 30 minutes before the boy asked to use her phone.
Fraser said she thought her Venmo app was protected by security features, but she learned it wasn’t. “Most of my apps were protected by face identification. I thought Venmo was as well. It wasn’t,” she said.
On Tuesday Fraser told the news station that Venmo did return the money to her account. According to information from Venmo, the situation with Fraser has since been resolved. Also, according to Venmo, a member of the company’s support team and customer service has reached out and has been working with Fraser in order to help her unfreeze her account.
Fraser said the boy successfully used her instinct to assist a child in distress against her in order to successfully carry out his alleged digital theft.
“Your first instinct is to help a kid,” she said. “Without thinking, and hindsight is 20/20, I just handed him my phone.”
“The security and privacy of all Venmo users and their information has always been a top company priority,” a Venmo company spokesperson told Newsweek. “Venmo has a number of options in place providing customers the ability to enable enhanced layers of security to help further protect their accounts directly within the app. We encourage customers who suspect they are the target of a scam or have had an unauthorized transaction to contact Customer Service directly.”
On the company’s website, Venmo warned of a number of potential scams and how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. To protect against fraud, Venmo has a number of other options for customers to safeguard their money and personal data.
According to Venmo, users have the option to enable Touch ID and PIN in their account settings. Once that feature is activated, the user will be asked for their PIN number every time. Additionally, to add even more layers of security, Venmo has suggested customers complete the multi-factor authentication whenever the user signs into the app. After signing into the app, a code may be sent to the phone number associated with that Venmo account.
Venmo also said that while there have been cases of such scams, they have are not a common occurrence.
Update 2/16/22 1:07 PM ET: This story has been updated with additional information.