A frozen Venmo account, and no way out

frozen venmo account

When the online payment service Venmo freezes Antoinette Sclafani’s account, it offers only one way out: She must send the company a copy of her driver’s license. But she doesn’t want to. Can this advocate help her with a better solution to her frozen Venmo account?

Q: I recently used Venmo to send $300 from my bank account to my daughter’s, which it did. A few days later they said Citibank couldn’t “verify” my account so I would have to verify it again, which I promptly did.

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A week later Venmo froze my account and said I had to send it a copy of my driver’s license. I told it I was not comfortable doing this and I want to just pay it the $300 and close the Venmo account.

I have been back and forth with numerous customer service reps, and they are telling me the only way I can pay them is to send them a copy of my ID. They refuse to give me contact info for a vice president in charge of customer service. We are at a standstill.

I want to pay them the $300 sent to my daughter! I have had the same bank account for almost 40 years, and I have excellent credit, which I want to keep. And I want to pay these idiots and never deal with them again! — Antoinette Sclafani, Floral Park, NY

A: Venmo, an online payment service, should not have frozen your account and forced you to send it a copy of your driver’s license. You were trying to forward money from a legitimate bank account to your daughter, which is routine and certainly not what I would consider a suspicious transaction.

I reviewed the chat transcripts among you, Venmo, and your bank. (By the way, great job on keeping those records. That helped expedite a resolution.) It appears Venmo could not locate your account number and routing number combination, so it covered the transfer with its own funds.

The online chats between you and Venmo became increasingly frustrating. Venmo says your bank rejected the transfer, which caused Venmo to mark that bank account “invalid” for future use. But it didn’t give a reason for the rejection, or, to be more specific, it offered several possible reasons. Those included a typographical error on your bank account information or a bank-imposed limit on certain transactions. You couldn’t get a straight answer.

How to unfreeze a frozen Venmo account

You might have reached out to your bank to find out why it refused to accept the transaction. I know some banks take extra security precautions when it comes to online transactions like Venmo or PayPal (PayPal owns Venmo). Still, Venmo should have offered a clear answer — and a better solution than sending a driver’s license.

By the way, verifying a user through a driver’s license isn’t that unusual. If you think of all the times you have to show an ID — when you’re at the bank, the grocery store, or to get into an office building — I’m not sure you have too much to worry about.

Contact information for the executives at Citigroup, your bank’s parent company and for the PayPal customer service managers are on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site.

Although a Venmo representative told you there are no managers to whom you could appeal, that was wrong. There’s always a manager.

I contacted Venmo on your behalf. A supervisor contacted you and offered a way to connect your Venmo account to your checking account. Your Venmo account is now unfrozen.