Money transfer app 'Venmo': How safe is it?

Posted at 8:15 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-06 14:20:39-05

If you hang out on the University of Colorado campus these days, it probably won’t be long before you hear a new verb.

"Do you want me to give you money for beer?” Jordyn Siemens asked her friend, sitting around the table at the student union. “I’ll Venmo you.”

Venmo is a wildly popular person-to-person money transfer app, especially among Millennials.

"If you don't have it, you've at least heard of it,” said Charlie Huinh, a CU student.

From splitting utilities bills to paying for beer or concert tickets, Venmo is seen as a convenient way to cut out cash. And it is free if you link your bank account or debit card (credit cards cost you a 3 percent fee).

“I don't ever have cash to pay back my friends,’ said Clara Nghiem, a CU student who also likes the social aspects of the app.

It’s linked to her Facebook account, so she can scroll through Venmo to see how her friends are spending their money – sort of.

"It looks like a lot of food and a lot of rent,” Nhiem said. "I'm assuming this Broncos thing is a bet that they lost. I'm not really sure what this poop symbol is."

And while Venmo has called itself “one of the fastest growing apps in the world by dollar volume,”processing billions of dollars, major security lapsescame to light last year, with headlines like “Venmo Scammers Know Something You Don’t”and “Venmo Money, Venmo Problems.”

“Last year, certainly there were some reports that showed Venmo had some great security oversights," said Grayson Milbourne, the Security Intelligence Director for Broomfield-based software security company Webroot. "Today, I would say that it's much more safe than it was a year ago."

On its blog, the Venmo leadership wrote about new notifications and tripling customer supportin response to the issues.

But Milbourne said there is still room for security improvement, recommending users to click on settings and turn on the optional PIN lock, as well as notifications.

“They’re adding the options for better security, but their default policy I think is still a little bit soft for what the app can do,” he said. “I think more awareness is key. But that said, today after my review of the service, I do think that it is secure and safe to use."

And “Venmo Me” isn’t going away anytime soon. Parent company Paypal has announcedit will soon allow Venmo users to pay certain businesses with the app (not just their friends.)


Sign up for Denver7 email alerts to stay informed about breaking news and daily headlines.

Or, keep up-to-date by following Denver7 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.