Scam alert: Why you should be very wary of letting a stranger borrow your phone

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Scam alert: Why you should be very wary of letting a stranger borrow your phone
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In this plugged-in digital age, most of us carry mobile phones. But things happen. People leave their phones at home, misplace them or, most commonly, run out of battery power.

In those cases, someone who is reliant on their mobile phone (and, let’s be honest, aren’t we all?) might ask to borrow yours. Should you let them? Most of us would probably do it without a second thought for kindness’ sake. But a recent incident that was brought to our attention has us thinking twice about that…

If you have payment apps on your phone, careful who you lend it to

Here’s how being kind to a stranger in apparent distress could have seriously negative consequences for your bottom line…

A person may ask to use your phone, perhaps for a dire emergency. When you give them your phone, unbeknownst to you, instead of dialing a number (or even in addition to calling someone) they could perform a money transfer from the Venmo, Cash App, PayPal or similar app you have installed on that phone.


To hide their sinister deed, they may even delete the money app, which could stop any notifications you would receive. According to a post on Nextdoor, this is exactly what happened to one Good Samaritan in Atlanta recently.

In this incident, $2,000 was withdrawn from the victim’s account.

Photo credit: Screenshot via Nextdoor.com

3 ways to protect yourself against this CashApp, Venmo & PayPal scam

Here are some ways to protect yourself from this (new to us) phone scam:

  • Dial the number yourself: If you’re unsure about the character of a person who has asked for your phone, ask them for the phone number and punch it in yourself. Then give them the phone and make sure they do nothing but talk into it. That way, you know the number is dialed and nothing nefarious is happening otherwise.
  • Lock down your payment apps: In some cases these payment apps default to making it as easy as possible for you to send and request money — meaning security settings are at their most lax levels. Make sure that just anyone who has your phone in their possession isn’t able to access your accounts.
  • Don’t relinquish your phone: If you really want to be super-safe, simply don’t lend your phone to anyone, especially those you don’t know. It may sound harsh, but it’s up to you to decide how comfortable you are assuming the risk that something could go wrong.

Now that that’s out of the way, here are six other common phone scams and how to avoid them.

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer. You can reach Craig at [email protected]
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