A right hand holds a phone with a poorly cropped venmo logo taking up half the screen
Three students this semester have been the targets of fraud involving the Venmo app. Photo by Sydney Schertz ‘24.

McKinley Lettre ’24 (She/Her), Staff Writer

In the month of October, multiple Davidson students were targeted by a financial scam conducted using the popular money sharing app, Venmo. According to messages sent in the Davidson Central Patio chat, a man approached students on campus and asked to borrow their phone to make a call. When the students obliged, the man used their Venmo app to send himself large sums of money. 

The total amount of money stolen through these scams is still under investigation by campus police. According to Chief Julian Coaxum, one attempt was unsuccessful by the scammer, and one attempt to steal over $1,000 was reversed by the student’s financial institution. 

Police are currently aware of three students who have been targeted. One incident occurred on the main campus, one on the sidewalk near T&I, and one on the street by the VAC. The first instance of scamming took place around 4 PM on October 17. The second two were reported within an hour of each other on October 28. “Once we were made aware of the two additional incidents, it became a pattern and not an isolated incident,” said Chief Coaxum. 

Davidson campus police sent out a safety alert email to students at 4:15 on October 28, roughly an hour after the third scam was reported. 

The initial alert was followed up with an email containing tips on securing one’s Venmo account. The email recommended students set their Venmo transactions to private to reduce the chance of being identified as a potential target. This can be done by going to Venmo settings and clicking on the privacy tab, then changing default privacy settings to private. It is also advised to change all past transactions to private. 

The most effective way to secure a Venmo account and protect oneself from scammers is to turn on biometric/PIN authentication. This option requires either a PIN number, Face ID, or a fingerprint in order to access the user’s Venmo account. To turn this on, students can go to settings and click on the Face ID and PIN tab under the security section. 

When asked how students can protect themselves from this scam, Chief Coaxum’s response was simple: don’t let anyone you don’t know touch your phone. If you’re approached by someone asking to use your phone, he suggests you “use the speakerphone setting and hold the phone in your hand.” 

Lastly, if you do find yourself a victim of a scam, don’t hesitate to report the incident to the nearest law enforcement agency, as well as your financial institution. Many banks have policies in place to help stop transactions or recover lost funds. 

Awareness and caution are crucial in preventing these scams. In a community like Davidson that values integrity and trust, it is natural that students would be willing to let a stranger borrow their phone. Proper security measures can help ensure that your good deed doesn’t hurt you in the end.