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'Super bold': Scammer uses North Carolina man's phone in front of him to steal over $2K

A man who lives in Charlotte, N.C. is warning others after he was scammed by a man who he was trying to help.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new Venmo scam is going around Charlotte, according to posts on the Nextdoor app, and it's something everyone with a smartphone needs to know about before they become a victim. 

Here's how it works: 

A person walks up to their victim and says they need to help and ask to use their phone to call a friend or family member. When the victim hands over their phone, the scammer uses Venmo to send themselves hundreds, or in many cases, thousands of dollars.

It happened to Trevor Hartley as he tried to help a man in his own front yard in Plaza Midwood. 

"It is super bold," Hartley said. 

He was doing yard work on Saturday when a man who'd been talking to a neighbor nearby came up to Hartley. 

"And he says, 'hey, my buddy didn't have a jack. My car tire needs replacing, do you have a jack?'" Hartley recalled.

Hartley told the stranger he didn't have a jack but the man persisted, asking for help. 

"He was like, 'OK, well, do you mind if I use your phone to reach out to a buddy of mine? He's gonna come help,'" Hartley explained. 

He ended up helping the guy, offering him his own cellphone that he could use. However, Hartley thought it was odd when the man started texting on his phone. 

"Like immediately, I had a really weird gut feeling," he said.

Then, minutes later, the man handed Hartley's phone back and ran. 

It turns out, the scammer used Hartley's Venmo account to send himself $2,200. 

"He knew exactly where to navigate to," Hartley said.

It's a problem WCNC Charlotte has reported on before when a Charlotte woman lost more than $1,000 the same way

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said in part in a statement, "It's not always easy to spot con artists. They're smart, extremely believable, and aggressive. It's crucial that people ask questions, listen carefully, and refuse to be pressured."

Hartley worked with his bank to get his money back but wants others to take precautions so it doesn't happen to you.  

"Just don't give your phone to strangers, ya know, type the number in, offer other things," he said. "Which stinks for people who really need help."

So how can you protect yourself? 

Go to your security settings in the Venmo app and make sure the 'Face ID and Pin' option is turned on. That will give you an extra layer of defense before you make a Venmo payment. 

WCNC Charlotte reporter Hunter Sáenz tried to see if the extra layer of defense works when you try to send money through Venmo in your iMessage app, and it does. 

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.