Venmo Might Not Be As Safe As You'd Hope

While there’s no doubt the mobile payment app Venmo is an easy way to pay a friend back for dinner or drinks, doubts are starting to arise as to whether the app is as safe to use as it is easy. According to a recent report by Slate, Venmo security has some major flaws. The money-transferring app has some big security loopholes and, moreover, Venmo’s customer support capabilities have not kept pace with the app’s skyrocketing popularity.

Slate’s Alison Griswold told the story of hacked Venmo user, New Yorker Chris Grey, as an example of just how easily the trendy, convenient app can go horribly wrong. One morning, Grey woke up to find a notification from his bank that he withdrawn $2,850 on his Venmo account. When he tried to log in, he found that his password had been changed and another email address had been added to his account. Venmo never alerted him that these changes had been made. Rob Shavell, co-founder and CEO of Abine, a data privacy firm, told Slate:

These are big problems. There ought to be email warnings, there ought to be two-factor authentication. It’s true for us, it’s true for Venmo, it’s true for all these services.

Unlike many other technologies that deal with high-security data, such as bank account numbers and credit card information, Venmo doesn’t offer a two-step verification process to login to an account. While the company says they’re working to implement that and that they do currently have “bank-grade security systems and data encryption” as protection, Grey’s story raises doubts as to whether that protection is adequate.

Moreover, when Grey emailed Venmo to alert them of the hack, Venmo took over 24 hours to respond. And Grey is just one of many Venmo users to complain about the company’s slow response time and lacking attentiveness to customer requests and questions, Slate reports. The company still doesn’t have a customer service phone line.

This may have something to do with the app’s small staff size. While Venmo processed an estimated $700 million in payments in the third quarter of 2014, Slate reports that, as of November, the company only had 70 full-time employees. To put that into perspective, PayPal, which processed $64.3 billion in the final quarter of 2014, has more than 10,000 employees.

But even if Venmo does fix its security glitches and beef up its customer support team, the nature of the app still raises privacy concerns. The app publicly shares details about who is paying whom, and for what. And oftentimes, the notes about what the money is for leaves behind incriminating evidence about buying drugs, sex, or alcohol. Not only is the app not necessarily adequately protecting your account, it’s broadcasting your money matters to the general public if you don't remember to make it private.

So while Venmo may be convenient, it’s worth remembering that sometimes ease comes with a hidden cost.

Image: Venmo (1)