Consumer Reports: Be careful when using peer-to-peer payment apps

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Peer-to-peer payment apps make paying for things a breeze. But there is a catch that users should be aware of.

Many do not offer the same level of protection against scams that most credit cards do, making them targets for online scammers.

Consumer Reports revealed the warning signs and what you can do to make sure you do not fall victim.

Daniela Rivera found a Goldendoodle up for adoption on Instagram.

"It was like love at first sight. He was so, so cute," she said.

Rivera says the supposed owner asked her to pay $850 using the payment app Zelle.

"It seemed pretty legit," she said.

But after she sent the money, the owner vanished. And because of the payment method Rivera used, she had no way to recover the money.

It is a problem Consumer Reports said happens way too often.

"Peer-to-peer payment apps aren't banks, and they're not credit cards, which makes it much harder for consumers to have recourse and get their money back," said Consumer Reports money editor Octavio Blanco.

Early Warnings Service, the network operator behind Zelle, told Consumer Reports that consumers should only send money to people they know and trust when using Zelle. Treat it like cash and beware of 'too good to be true' situations.

"Until laws are changed, then consumers are going to have to be really careful when they use peer-to-peer payment apps," said Blanco.

If you suspect something is a scam, go to the Better Business Bureau's "Scam Tracker" website. It can give you a better idea of the product or service you are looking for as an easy scam target.

Rivera says she will still use P2P payment apps, but with much more caution, only sending money to family and friends.

Consumer Reports warns not to use a P2P app for business purposes.

The terms of service for most apps prohibit the use of purchasing goods and services. Look instead for one specifically created for business users, like Square Cash for business or PayPal.
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