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Dear Decaturish – Beware Venmo fraud

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Dear Decaturish – Beware Venmo fraud

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Dear Decaturish,

I wanted to share my disheartening experience while out on a run recently on the Decatur Greenway as a lesson and a warning for others. These events are under investigation by the DeKalb County Police Financial/Fraud Division.

I was out on a run about 30 minutes before sunset heading southbound on the Decatur Greenway with lots of people out walking. A man stopped me and said he was locked out of his home and needed to call someone as he had to get to work. In less than three minutes, he had stolen $3,080 from me via the Venmo app. I spent the following distressing days resetting every password, locking bank accounts, and talking with the police.

How could this happen? The crime was efficiently and expertly executed – it is clear this has been practiced thoroughly. I initially held onto the phone and dialed the number he requested and put it on speaker phone. The man on the other end gave him the phone number, and then when we tried to call it, an automated message said the number was not in service. So, he insisted he had to call his friend back, and then said he would text “her” to pick him up. That is when he slid the phone out of my hands. I should never have allowed that. He turned the phone away from my view a few times, and when I showed my discomfort, he said he wasn’t going to steal my phone and truly appreciated my help. He started asking me about my run, how my day was going, the weather – all efforts to distract me. As he lowered the phone, I saw him swipe quickly away from my finance app section. Before I could inquire more, he thanked me for the help, darted across the street, and got into a waiting black SUV.

I knew something was very wrong, noticed a few banking apps had been deleted, and called the police. I did not immediately notice that my Venmo app had been deleted until talking to the police, likely to prevent any notifications of his misdeeds. I checked my email, and he had paid himself $3,080.

Lessons learned:

1) Keep your distance from anyone who approaches you.

2) NEVER let them take your phone.

3) Secure your Venmo account with a pin and two-factor authentication. 

Regarding Venmo, while they did initially lock my account, the company insisted I still allowed the fraudulent money to be withdrawn from my bank, showed no interest in recording my police report number, and refused to allow me to speak directly to the fraud department. I was told in 7-10 days I would hear back. It felt like being victimized twice – first by the thief, and then by Venmo not reacting to my pleas to stop the transaction despite my call immediately after the crime. Thankfully, with the help of CBS46 Atlanta’s inquiry, the case has now been resolved. I do not know where I would be right now without their help.

Thank you for listening to my story,

Matthew Groh

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