A woman holding a mobile phone over a laptop.

Did a Woman Use Venmo to Send Herself Thousands of Dollars from a Stranger’s Phone?

On November 12, 2018, Twitter user @SydneyShyanneS tweeted a tale about the cash-sharing app Venmo, modern dating, and bar interactions which later became virally popular:

this dude has been calling my bar to check the cameras because he asked a girl to put her number into his phone & she Venmo’d herself $2,000 ???? drunk bitches are GENIUS

About three weeks later, the original poster provided updates to her story:

The guy came back to the bar tonight & asked if I was the one that posted this tweet. I told him I was and then he thanked me for making him famous. And I was like no thank YOU for making ME famous. He also got his money refunded (‘:

— Shitney (@SydneyShyanneS) December 2, 2018

Now that that’s settled, every dude that sent me hate mail can fuck off and stop bitchin

— Shitney (@SydneyShyanneS) December 2, 2018

As the tweeted story picked up steam, outlets began publishing articles about it. Typically, those items only referenced the story as having happened, rarely questioning whether the anecdote was legitimate.

In a November 26, 2018 post to Reddit’s r/insanepeoplefacebook, a doubtful commenter pointed out that the claim actually appeared to be an emerging urban legend, one first observed in 2017:

Just because somebody hands you their unlocked phone doesn’t mean you can just start sending money around. Individual apps require further passwords.

Don’t believe me? Hey, what’s this post from 2017 about a girl venmoing herself $2400 from the poster’s phone when he gave it to her to take “sexy pics of herself” when she visited the bathroom? Note the very similar amount of money involved but the slight change in the reason he handed her the phone.

As the user correctly stated, versions of the story had been posted to Reddit in June 2017 and March 2018.

Both of the stories involved amounts of money in the $2,000 to $2,500 range. Another version of the story was published by a blog in March 2017.

According to a Venmo page updated on December 5, 2018, it appears it is possible for someone to access another person’s Venmo app simply by gaining access to an unlocked device:

In the app, there is an icon in the upper right hand corner of the home screen with a square and a pencil. You can add as many friends as you’d like to pay or charge, the amount, and a note. Once you’re ready, tap “Request” or “Pay” depending on the action you want to take and you should be all set!

The tweet about a “drunk girl” using Venmo to help herself to $2,000 was not new nor definitively true. Several similar stories spread on sites like Reddit as early as March 2017, and no one reporting on the story has seemed to verify whether it actually happened.

We contacted Venmo to ask about the rumor, but have not yet received a response