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SCAM ALERT | Thieves ask to borrow phone, then use cash sharing app Venmo to steal thousands

Atlanta Police has had four reports of the scam since September.
Photo from Venmo.com.

ATLANTA - You may want to think twice before letting a stranger borrow your cell phone.

Atlanta Police have received reports from people saying they were scammed out of thousands of dollars after letting someone use their phone.

Since September, four people have contacted police with similar stories. They were approached by someone who asked to borrow their cell phone to make a call. Later, three of the victims received notifications from their bank alerting them of the transactions. In each case, money was sent from their cell phones to another party using the cash sharing app Venmo.

On September 18, a 28-year old woman left Woody's CheeseSteaks located on Monroe Drive. She told police she was approached by a man who asked to use her cell phone to contact a friend and tell them where he was located.

Later that day, she received a fraud alert from her bank for two transactions; one for $1,000 and another for $500. She told police the suspect was a young light skin African-American male who had short locs with blonde tips. He was wearing a green bomber jacket with letters, no shirt underneath and shorts. He was last seen in a red car with Mississippi plates.

On October 4, a 26-year old man was walking home from Inman Perk Coffee Shop when a man approached him saying he had an emergency and asked to borrow his phone because his was dead.

The man told police the thief made a call then sent a text because he said the person didn't answer. He received an email from his bank saying he had insufficient funds from three transactions of $1,000, $500, and $1,000. No description of a suspect was giving in the report.

Another 28-year-old woman said she was at the corner of 8th and Cypress Streets on October 11 when a well-dressed African-American teenager riding a scooter approached her. He asked to borrow her phone to call his friend because he was lost. After pretending to call and text someone, she said he asked her for directions to the nearest MARTA station. The next morning, she got an overdraft protection alert for a $1,000 and another for $1,500.

And on October 25, a woman said she let a black male use her phone while she was on the Beltline near Ralph McGill Blvd. She later realized he sent $1,500 to someone using the Venmo app.

Atlanta Police have not made an arrest in these cases and gives the following tips for people to help protect themselves:

  • Keep any personal and financial information secure on your phone.
  • Avoid using an auto login feature on any that app that contains sensitive information.
  • Ensure that a password is required for each use and that apps are closed when not in use.

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