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  • Security Alert: Dog Walker Scam Using Payment Apps

    by David Comiskey

    Protecting the safety of our users is a top priority for us at Barkly. That manifests in many ways, from ensuring the safety of our customers’ pets and homes, to protecting our walkers from unsafe or dangerous situations. Most recently, a new threat has been brought to our attention. Cyber scammers are masquerading as Barkly customer service representatives to elicit personally private information from dog walkers.

    A photo of a dark keyboard. Scammers and cyber actors are seeking ways to scam dog walkers using payment apps.

    These scammers haven’t only singled out Barkly. Reports on Reddit from walkers with both Wag! and Rover.com tell of very similar incidents. In this blog post, a Wag! walker offers a full account of the scam. We detail below the specific actions we’re taking to stop these scammers, and we outline exactly how the scams unfold.

    How Scammers are Contacting Walkers

    To understand how these scams work, you first need to understand a bit about how Barkly works. Dog walkers use our platform to be matched with pet owners seeking pet care. To build trust between these matches, we allow pet owners to request free ‘meet and greets’ with walkers. To facilitate these meet and greets, walkers are given the customer’s phone number through the app to set up a meeting time. Customers never receive a walker’s phone number until the walker first contacts them.

    These scammers are leveraging tools we built to instill trust to solicit walkers to contact them. After a walker contacts them, the scammer has the walker’s phone number. The scammer will then call the walker from a blocked number and claim to be a Barkly support representative. On the phone with the walker, the scammer will claim that Barkly is transitioning to a new payment system such as Zelle or Cash App (for the record, we use Stripe). The scammer will tell the walker that their account will be deactivated unless they switch to the new payment system immediately. They will say that they are in touch with your bank about these changes. You’ll then receive an SMS claiming to be from your bank requesting your information, including username, and password.

    A real Barkly support representative would never ask for your personal banking information like your password. Nor would the representative of any other company, including your bank itself!

    "A real Barkly support representative would never ask for your personal information like your password."

    How to Detect a Scammer

    Be mindful of these red flags to detect a scammer early:

    • Do you recognize the number contacting you or is the number a blocked caller with “No Caller Id?” For Barkly walkers, we never use blocked numbers.
    • Is the information the person requesting unusual or suspicious? Does it make sense for them to be asking for such information? Aside from the glaring items like passwords, we would never need to ask you for your phone number, email address, etc because we already have this information on file.
    • Ask them to email you from a verified Barkly email address first. They will attempt to exert pressure, telling you that it is time-sensitive or that the email system is currently down. These excuses should raise your suspicions as well.

    What To Do If You Receive A Scam Call?

    If you receive a scam call relating to your Barkly account, we’d ask that you do the following:

    • Do not provide any of the requested information.
    • Record the phone number that called you and the subsequent phone number that texted you requesting your bank information.
    • Email Barkly support (or the support organization of the company you walk with) to notify us and provide us the information you collected about the scammer.
    • When in doubt, hang up.

    What is Barkly Doing to Prevent Scams?

    We have contacted law enforcement regarding these scams. As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, other companies have been plagued with the same tactics. It is our hope to work with law enforcement to assist them in putting an end to these bad operators.

    We are deploying new features that require additional ID verification and other safety mechanisms to prevent fraudsters from operating on the platform. To avoid tipping off any possible scammers to new protocols coming, we will not name specific features here. The murky underworld of cyberspace evolves quickly and a new feature today could become a vulnerability tomorrow.

    Ultimately, the more cognizant and aware we each are of the threats out there will help prevent any of us from falling victim to the next scam cooked up. Stay vigilant.

    Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our 24/7 support team if you have any questions.

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