Venmo scam draining bank accounts

(WAND) - Users of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payment platforms should beware of scammers. 

Users of Zelle, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Facebook Payments and Cash App are being warned that scammers have now discovered how to take money from those using the apps. Fraud fighters at the National Consumers League and AARP are reporting a growing number of people complaining that they've lost money using the P2P apps. 

"Because money can be transferred so quickly into someone else's bank account, these P2P platforms are the perfect payment mechanism for scammers," John Breyault at Fraud.org told NBC News (a project of the National Consumers League). "All you need to get the money is a cellphone number or email address. That's why it's so important for people to be really careful when they're using these apps."

Scammers are placing bogus online classified ads for merchandise, tickets to concerts and sporting events. According to a recent news release they are also scamming people looking for puppies. Users can end up losing hundreds or thousands of dollars. 

Experts say P2P apps are not for online shopping. The apps are to be used for a quick and easy way to give money to someone you know. Most use the app to pay someone back for their part of a restaurant bill or to send money to a friend or family member. 

"Venmo is designed for payments between friends and people who know and trust one another," Justin Higgs, Venmo's director of corporate affairs, told NBC News BETTER in an email. "Venmo's User Agreement states that the platform should not be used to accept payment from (or send payment to) another user for a good or service."

Despite this advice, it's easy to get a false sense of security using these digital payment services. Here's the bottom line: Once the money is sent, it's gone.

The best way to protect yourself from a scammer on P2P apps is to not use it to purchase products, double and triple check the address, username or phone number of the person you are sending the money to. You can also opt-in for stronger security. Most P2P apps offer the ability to create a personal identification number (PIN). The PIN is then required to be entered anytime money is sent in the app. 

If you've been a victim of a P2P scam, you should file a complaint using the Fraud.org's secure complaint form. The form will be sent to over 90 law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners. 

NBC News contributed to this report.