Florida Couple Loses $19,000 In Venmo Scam

Try describing to your grandparents what any of your favorite apps does, and before you are even finished getting the words out, it will be obvious the kinds of trouble the app can cause.  Facebook?  People post the snarky comments and divisive political views that, in the old days, people kept to themselves in the interest of avoiding needless interpersonal conflict.  Twitter?  Just enough characters to make an apparently shocking statement, but not enough to explain what you actually meant.  Instagram?  Looks are everything.  Venmo, however, sounds harmless.  Under ordinary circumstances, it enables friends to split the bill at a restaurant equitably and family members to float each other some grocery money without both of them schlepping all the way to Western Union.  Unfortunately, a South Florida couple’s first encounter with Venmo was when they found out that someone had fraudulently set up a Venmo account in their names and used it to empty out their bank account.  A Tampa probate lawyer can help you avoid financially ruinous scams like these.

Identity Theft Tears Couple’s Estate Plan Asunder

In early 2021, Alan and Aviva Sturm had over $19,000 in a bank account that they used to pay their monthly expenses, including their rent for a two-bedroom apartment in a Boynton Beach assisted living facility and their secondary medical insurance coverage.  Sometime around the beginning of March 2021, hackers gained access to the bank account and fraudulently set up a Venmo account in Alan Sturm’s name.  At first the hackers tested out their plan by transferring eight cents out of the account, followed by another transaction for less than a dollar.  After Mr. and Mrs. Sturm did not notice those transactions, the hackers began transferring out $1,500 per week, until, by the summer, the account was almost empty.  In July, Alan Sturm wrote a rent check to the assisted living facility and, to his surprise, it bounced.  That was how he found out that the account had been hacked.

Sturm called the bank to find out what had happened, and that was how he found out about the Venmo account.  In fact, it was the first time he had ever heard of Venmo.  The bank representative told him that Venmo was like PayPal, but Sturm also did not know about PayPal.  The bank advised Sturm to contact Venmo and tell them that all the transactions on the account were fraudulent and that the account had only been created through identity theft.  When Sturm contacted Venmo, they refunded all the money the hackers had transferred out of his account.  In the meantime, he cut his expenses as much as possible, cancelling his secondary medical insurance and moving to a smaller apartment into the assisted living facility.

Contact an Attorney for Help

As personal finance technology evolves, seniors are increasingly at risk of identity theft.  An estate planning lawyer can help you diversify your assets and protect them from scams and financial crimes.  Contact David Toback in Tampa, Florida to set up a consultation.