How to avoid fraud with P2P and A2A transfers
For many people, shopping and paying bills online is second nature. And now thanks to mobile payment apps, you can easily pay your friend or tip your hairdresser with a tap of your phone. But with the rise of mobile payment apps have also come a rise in fraud and scams. Add in the craziness of the holidays, and it can be easy to get distracted and fall victim to scams. Read on to learn more about P2P and A2A payments with mobile transfer apps and how you can best protect yourself from scams.
What are P2P & A2A transfers and how do they work?
Peer-to-peer (P2P) payments let you send money directly to another person. Commonly known through money transfer apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Zelle, P2P payments allow you to send and receive money through your mobile device. Typically, funds are transferred electronically from your checking account but some apps like Venmo accept a credit or debit card to transfer funds, sometimes for a fee. P2P payments are free to send through Georgia’s Own Bill Pay, online or with mobile banking, and the recipient can receive the funds faster by opting to pay a small fee.
Account-to-account (A2A) or external transfers can be used to electronically transfer funds to your accounts at other financial institutions or send money to friends and family if you know their account information (routing number, account number, etc.). A2A transfers can be set up online or through mobile banking and usually require you to validate access to the external account—sometimes that’s instant and other times that’s done through micro-deposit validation. Once the access has been granted, you can set up one-time or recurring transfers to those external accounts. Unlike P2P payments, A2A transfers can take a few business days to process, depending on the institution(s).
Both forms of payment are best used with people you know and trust. If you send or receive money via A2A, you need to share bank account information—which can potentially put you at risk for fraud. On the other hand, P2P payments are essentially like cash. Once the money is gone, it is gone. And while all systems encrypt personal data and financial information, they can still be susceptible to hackers or scammers.
Most common scams: what to look out for
Unfortunately, scammers are creative and constantly developing new ways to steal your money. Knowing some of the more common types of scams can help you keep you and your money safe.
With the rise of P2P payment apps, scammers have started “accidentally” paying people and then asking for a refund. Never send the money back, and instead contact the P2P service about the error. These payments are usually made with stolen funds or hacked accounts that will eventually be flagged as a fraud. If you send money back to the scammer, the P2P service could take funds out of your account or hold you responsible.
Another common A2A scam tactic is the impersonation of your financial institution. You may get a call to alert you about “suspicious activity” on your account. They may try to direct you to send money or ask you to confirm information such as your bank account username and password, credit card or debit card data, or Social Security numbers. Do not share this information—scammers want to create an account with your information, steal your identity, and gain access to your accounts.
Similarly, scammers may pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use the name of a real government agency, like the IRS or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Other scams involve pretending to be from a business you know, like a utility company or a charity asking for donations. Do not share any give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Honest organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers nor will they ask you to set up A2A payments.
Lastly, there has been an increase in scammers posing as a legitimate business. They may request a P2P payment to reserve a product or service. Once they receive your money, they disappear. Treat P2P payments like cash—do not pay until you receive the product. If you must pay in advance, use your credit card for extra protection.
Best practices for avoiding fraud
The most important tip for avoiding fraud with P2P payments and apps is to only send money to people you know and trust. In the case of real-time P2P payments, these transactions are the equivalent to handing over cash—once the money has left your account, it is gone. If you have two-factor authorization set up to receive a one-time passcode, do not share it. Your financial institution should never ask you for this information.
When setting up A2A payments, rely on processors that are sponsored or associated with your bank, like Georgia’s Own Bill Pay. This will allow you to track your payments and ensure the security of your account. Additionally, you should only set up A2A transfers with people you fully trust.
Always keep an eye on your account transactions, and watch for notifications from your financial institution. If you see notifications about a transaction that you didn’t make, contact your institution immediately. The faster you respond, the better chance of stopping the fraud from occurring. You also should not ignore messages about information changes. If you see something has changed and you didn’t make that change, contact your institution immediately.
Can I get my money back?
If you find unauthorized payments or think you’ve paid a scammer, there are several steps you’ll want to take. If you’ve used a mobile payment app, you will want to contact the app directly. You also need to report it to the FTC and potentially file a police report. When you report a scam, you help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies stop scams.
Lastly, one of the most important things you should do is talk about it with your friends and family. Unfortunately, we are all susceptible to fraud and talking about it may help others to see the signs before it is too late.
- Anyone and everyone can be susceptible to scams and fraud.
- Only pay people you know, and only set up A2A payments through your financial institution-sponsored payment options.
- Report any scams or fraud immediately to the correct organizations.
It is important to remember that fraud can happen to anyone, especially during this time of year as we may be distracted by friends and family. Keep your holidays happy and stay alert!