But in the real world, it’s not always possible to abide by these P2P warnings. Sophisticated scams using P2P to relieve you of money are becoming more and more common. Plus, it’s not hard to find yourself in a situation where someone you don’t know well—say, a plumber or another service provider—asks to be paid by one of these methods. And of course, sometimes you just screw up by mistyping a single digit of the ID phone number, sending funds to who knows whom and where.
On the fraud front alone, in 2021 there were more than 70,000 reports of fraud in mobile payment apps and $130 million in losses, according to the Federal Trade Commission—a sharp increase from the 60,000 fraud reports and $87 million in losses reported the year prior.
For these reasons, P2P apps are increasingly under fire from consumer advocates, who are demanding that providers protect consumers from fraud and errors. “P2P companies should take the same responsibility that credit card companies do for the safety of their systems and for keeping scammers out,” says Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center.
Regulators are paying attention, too. Last October the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began collecting information on the business practices of these payment technology companies, with the aim of ultimately ensuring better consumer protections.
In the meantime, consumers who use mobile payments can be left on the hook. According to a March 2022 Consumer Reports nationally representative survey (PDF) of 2,116 U.S. adults, 22 percent of Americans who have ever used one or more P2P services have had an issue with them. Of those, 9 percent didn’t try to resolve the issue—and among those who did try, 21 percent were unsuccessful.