August 9, 2023
Venmo loves to tout its social features—and yes, easily being able to send money to anyone in your phone contacts who also uses the product can be very convenient. One way Venmo makes this easy is with an automatic friending feature that connects you directly with anyone in your contact list by default. But while it speeds up payments, automatic friending may actually be putting you at increased risk of fraud, cyberstalking, and other online threats:
When you sign up for Venmo, the app automatically adds everyone in your contact list to your friends list, ostensibly to make it faster and easier for payments to happen. But once a new contact is added to your friends list, even if you then delete them from your contact list, they’re still on your friends list til you manually remove them. And once they’re on your friends list, unless you’ve made your payments private, they can see (and comment) on every single payment you make.
But payments contain some very sensitive information, helping potential attackers to understand how you spend your time, who you’re close with, and where your money goes. Armed with this information, harassers can identify loved ones to DM with threats, stalkers can find new people to monitor in order to surveil you, and people from different parts of your life can accidentally discover details of your personal life that you’d really prefer they not know.
Bottom line: there’s no reason your plumber from three years ago (or your boss) needs to know who you get drinks with or where you get your nails done every month. Fortunately, it’s relatively straightforward to fix this going forward, once you’ve discovered the risk.
Privacy Party can automate this process, or you can make it happen manually instead.
You'll first need to log into Venmo and head over to settings.
1. Visit https://account.venmo.com/settings/social
2. Toggle off “Phone Contacts”.
Wondering what other problems are lurking in your social media settings? Privacy Party can help identify risks, offer expert recommendations, and automate settings updates to save you time.