Arthur Walzer sends $100 to the wrong person on Venmo. Instead of helping him, Venmo freezes his account. What gives?

Q: I have a problem with Venmo. I wanted to gift my granddaughter Delia $100 for her 14th birthday. My daughter told me that Delia is proud to have a Venmo account and asked if I could I gift her through Venmo. My daughter explained that I would first need to create an account, then search for Delia’s name in Venmo. Venmo would ask me to enter Delia’s phone number; I could then transfer the $100 from my bank to Delia’s Venmo account. 

I set up the account and typed in Delia’s first and last name as the person to whom I wanted to send the money. But Venmo did not ask for Delia’s phone number. I assumed therefore that there was only one Delia with my granddaughter’s last name.

Almost immediately, I received this message back: “Hey how do I know you? I’m sorry. Nice gesture but I don’t think I’m the person you were sending it to.”

The money was sent to the wrong Delia. Fortunately, the wrong Delia was honest and let me know. 

I called Venmo to see what to do. A recorded message said that Venmo’s customer service was not operating because of the pandemic. Since neither I nor the wrong Delia knew what to do, I called my bank since the transfer was “in process.” I asked the bank to refuse payment to the wrong Delia on behalf; the bank did that. But the wrong Delia’s account was still credited with the $100. 

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Venmo blames me for the error and claims I owe them $100. It has frozen my account and demands that I pay Venmo the money. Could you please intervene or at least warn your readers about the risks of sending money through Venmo? — Arthur Walzer, New York City, New York

A: I’m sorry you and your granddaughter had to put up with this. Of course, Venmo should have fixed the error right away. Instead, the company froze your account. Come on!

Venmo’s guide on sending and receiving money doesn’t mention the issue of two people with the same name. You could have avoided this by asking your granddaughter to send you a money request — then you would have known it was going to the right Delia.

But you had no way of knowing that since you were brand-new to Venmo. And Venmo should have done better when you brought this to them. 

If you run a business, you have to answer your customers. So Venmo’s excuse of not answering its phones because of the pandemic is utter nonsense. But it looks like you finally got through to the company, only to have it freeze your account. Thanks for nothing!

You could have reached out to a Venmo executive. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the PayPal managers (PayPal owns Venmo) on my consumer advocacy site.

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I contacted Venmo on your behalf. It refunded your $100 as a “one-time courtesy.” I’m not sure how returning your money is a one-time courtesy, but if it makes Venmo feel better, that’s fine.

“We won’t be able to help with any mistaken payments like this in the future,” a representative told you. “We recommend making sure you send future payments to the intended recipient. The best way to do so is by making the payment directly to the phone number or email address associated with your friend’s Venmo account rather than searching for their name in the app. Using QR codes in the app is another great way to make sure you’re paying the right person — let me know if you’d like more info on that.”

It sounds like you’re going to pass on that offer. You’ve had enough of Venmo. Next time, maybe just send Delia a check for her birthday.