Scam alert: Students advised not to pay strangers with Venmo

URBANA, Ill. – The University of Illinois Police Department is advising students not to use Venmo to help strangers transfer funds to other accounts.

Police have received several reports from students who say they were approached by someone they did not know and were asked to accept a Venmo transfer. They were then directed to transfer the money via Venmo to a third account.

After the students transfer the money to a third-party, the original transaction is canceled and the students never receive the funds they were promised. They are left paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to someone whom they do not know.

The most recent incident occurred on Sunday when a student was approached at a restaurant in the 600 block of East Green Street, Champaign, by an offender who claimed that he needed money to purchase textbooks but could not transfer money from his own Venmo account to his bank account and needed the student’s assistance. The student accepted the stranger’s transfer, and then transferred those funds to the stranger’s bank account – but later learned the original transfer never went through.

Another student reported being approached at the Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., Urbana, by someone who claimed to be having trouble with his Venmo account and needed the student to accept a $2,300 transfer and then visit an ATM to withdraw the cash. The student did not complete the transaction as requested.

In the past, students also have been scammed via Venmo when buying or selling items through online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook.

Students who use Venmo should be aware of these guidelines:

  • Never accept money from or send money to someone whom you don’t know. Even Venmo’s own website says it is not designed to deal with strangers.
  • A transaction is not final once it appears in your account. It may take several days to actually receive the funds you were promised, which gives a scammer time to cancel the transaction.
  • Venmo does not offer a protection program for people who are using it to make transactions with people they do not know. If a scammer tricks you, you will lose your money.
  • If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Call the police department if you think you may be dealing with a scammer.

These incidents remain under investigation. If you have been approached by a stranger who has asked you to accept a Venmo transfer – whether you completed the transfer or not – you should call the University of Illinois Police Department at 217-333-1216 or email

If you are not sure whether something is a scam, you may call or email the police department to ask for guidance.