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An L.A. Scammer Used Venmo To Steal $25,000 Worth Of Film Equipment

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You know how all your friends on Venmo try to get you to download the mobile payment app by saying, "Oh, no, it's totally safe and scam-proof?" Well, as it turns out, they might be wrong; a Venmo scammer in the L.A. area has made off with $25,000 worth of expensive camera gear over a two-week period, The Verge reports.

A buyer identified as "Andy Mai" bought $1,500 camera from an East Hollywood resident, then paid for it in small installments that caused Venmo to freeze the seller's account, according to Verge. Venmo accused the seller, Rasa, of breaking its user policy against receiving money in exchange for goods (in other words, merchants aren't allowed to use the app as a payment system); although Rasa was a one-time seller, not a merchant, the transaction was blocked and the money owed to him was lost.

The same scenario played out with another seller named Brendan in Ventura County, who lost a camera and lenses worth $7,500. Rasa, Brendan and up to 20 other sellers targeted in the scam made contact with "Andy Mai" via Facebook Marketplace and set public meetings to exchange goods. The people who picked up the goods varied in each transaction, suggesting that there could be a group of individuals behind the "Andy Mai" scam.

Venmo has some safeguards in place. There's a $300-per-week transaction limit; this can be bypassed if the user supplies their Social Security number to the app, which then boosts the limit up to $3000. But like any mobile payment app, it's still susceptible to fraud; thus, Venmo urges its users not to exchange money with strangers. In other words, use Paypal or eBay to sell bigger-ticket items, and save Venmo for paying your roommate back for happy-hour drinks.

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This isn't the first time Venmo has been used for illicit activity, with Fast Company reporting that almost one-third of millennials have used Venmo to pay for drugs. (We shudder to think what kind of crimes Gen Z is using Venmo to finance.)