What do you do if you use a peer-to-peer payment app such as PayPal, Venmo or Cash App to send money and discover you sent it to the wrong person? What if you entered the wrong amount for a payment? Or, even worse, what if you were scammed? Can you get your money back?
Payment app websites provide a variety of warnings about using their services and how to avoid such situations. “Yet they provide very little recourse for consumers who find themselves in such situations,” according to an analysis by U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.
In short, if you make a transaction you didn’t intend to make, you likely won’t get your money back. However, it’s important to understand the policies of the various peer-to-peer payment apps to know whether you can cancel payments and get refunds.
Consumer protections for payment apps
Transactions made through peer-to-peer payment apps are covered by the federal Electronic Funds Transfer Act, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Board. If you report an erroneous transaction on your account, the peer-to-peer payment service is required to investigate it. However, what is considered an error under the EFTA is limited, for the most part, to incorrect transfer amounts and unauthorized transfers.
The EFTA does limit consumer liability for unauthorized transactions. For example, if someone were to get access to your payment app account and transfer money without your permission, that would be considered fraud. You likely could get your money back if you reported the fraudulent activity in a timely manner.
However, EFTA protections don’t extend to transactions initiated by consumers—even if those transactions lead to fraud, according to U.S. PIRG. So if you paid a scammer using a payment app, you probably couldn’t get your money back.
That said, it’s important to be aware of the payment cancellation and refund policies of the various payment apps to know when you can and can’t get your money back.
How to cancel PayPal payments
You can’t cancel a completed PayPal payment, only incomplete or pending payments. If you want to get your money back, PayPal recommends contacting the person you paid by going to your “Activity,” selecting the payment and asking for a refund.
You also could file a dispute with the person you paid by logging onto your account online (not through the app), going to the Resolution Center and clicking “Report a Problem.” Be aware that you can’t dispute payments sent as “Family and Friends,” and disputes must be opened within 180 days of when a payment is made. If you can’t settle the dispute with the person you paid, you can escalate it to a claim and ask PayPal to investigate it.
If you sent a payment that is still pending or unclaimed, you can cancel it by going to your Activity, finding the payment and hitting “cancel.”
How to cancel Venmo payments
According to Venmo, you can’t cancel payments made to an existing Venmo account. Once the money is sent, it is available to the recipient, so you must ask the recipient to return the money if you want a refund.
If you accidentally sent the money to the wrong person, you can send a charge request with the same amount of the payment you sent and a note explaining that the money was sent by mistake. If you believe that you are a victim of a scam, Venmo recommends filling out its online support form.
If you sent a payment to a phone number or email that hasn’t been registered with a Venmo account yet, you can stop the payment in the “incomplete” section of the app. Click on the tab with the person and dollar sign icon to see your transactions then click on the incomplete button that looks like a dollar sign with an arrow around it.
How to cancel Zelle payments
You can only cancel payments made through Zelle if the payment is sent to someone who hasn’t enrolled in Zelle. If a payment is made to someone who already has an active Zelle account, the money is sent to the person’s bank account and can’t be canceled.
If you discover an unauthorized transaction and are enrolled in Zelle through your bank, notify your bank about the transaction. If you’re enrolled through the Zelle app, contact Zelle about unauthorized transactions by calling 844-428-8542.
If you knowingly sent money and it turned out to be a scam, Zelle states on its website that it is unable to assist you in getting your money back. However, Zelle does have a form you can use to report a scam and the user who took your money.
How to cancel Cash App payments
Payments to active Cash App accounts can’t be canceled. If you sent money to the wrong person or want a refund, you’ll have to reach out to the person you paid by going to the Activity tab on the Cash App home screen, clicking on the payment and selecting “Refund” or using the “Request” button on the home screen to ask for your money back. However, it’s up to the recipient whether to return the money.
If you’re a victim of a scam, Cash App recommends that you report the scam by clicking on “Support” and selecting “Report a Payment Issue.” You also can report the account of the user involved in the scam. Click on the profile of the person you sent money to and click “Report” or “Block.”
If you discover an unauthorized charge, contact a Cash Support representative through the app by clicking the profile icon on the home screen and clicking “Support.”
How to cancel Apple Pay payments
Apple Pay payments are sent through the Messages app. To find out if you can cancel a payment you’ve sent, open the Messages app then open the conversation where you sent a payment. When you tap the payment, your Apple Cash Card will open and you’ll see a list of your transactions. Click the payment you want to cancel. If the payment hasn’t already been accepted, you’ll have an option to cancel it. Otherwise, you’ll have to contact the recipient to ask for a refund.
If your device is stolen, your account is compromised or if there are unauthorized transactions, report it immediately by calling 877-233-8552. The dollar amount of unauthorized charges you will be liable for depends on how quickly you notify Apple.
How to cancel Google Pay payments
Google Pay does take steps to protect users against fraud by sending alerts when you attempt to send payments to someone who isn’t in your contact list. However, once you make a payment, it can’t be canceled. Google recommends reaching out to the person you paid and asking for a refund. If you want to cancel or dispute a payment made to a business, Google recommends contacting the merchant directly.
If you discover unauthorized transactions on your account, you can dispute them if you file a report within 120 days of when the payment was made. Learn more about how to file a dispute with Google Pay.
For the most part, once you send money through payment apps, you can’t cancel the transaction. And you likely won’t get your money back unless the person you sent it to is willing to refund it. Only if there is an unauthorized transaction on your account will you possibly be able to get your money back if you report the fraud quickly. So your best bet to avoid losing money to payment app scams is to only use the apps to send money to people you know.
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