Tech Guide

Anyone can see when you send money to friends with Venmo — here's how to make it private

Key Points
  • Venmo shows your payment history by default.
  • That means people can see what you've been sending other people over the payment network.
  • We'll show you how to change your settings so that transactions are private.
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PayPal's Venmo is a convenient tool for buying goods and sending or receiving money to and from friends.

But it also reveals information you may not have wanted out there.

By default, all of your transactions are public for anyone to see. Anybody can see who you paid, when you paid them and the reason for the transaction that you enter. (The amount of the transaction is not public.)

That means I can easily log in and see the payments you've made to anyone, even if we're not friends and I don't know you.

Fortunately, there's a way to fix it, and we'll show you how.

Here's what I found after just a few minutes:

My friend charged a friend for beers he paid for:

Another friend charged my buddy for a summer house rental (guess I'm not invited):

There's also an entire feed of public transactions from people I'm not friends with and who I don't even know.

I found it by going here:

Looks like these two random people went to the movies:

Someone went to a Phillies game:

This guy paid for internet... guessing they're roommates.

Looks like these guys had a night out at Chili's:

I can even find anybody by name

I can find users by name and see if their transactions are public. All I need to do is enter a name in the top search bar of Venmo to begin digging.

Once a name pops up, I can just tap "Feed" to see the transactions. My editor probably doesn't know his profile is public, but here it is (I blurred his details to save my job):

(Editor's note: I'm glad Todd didn't expose how much money I lost on this year's March Madness pool.)

So what?

These users don't know their transactions are public. The total amount of each payment isn't broadcast to everyone — I don't know whether that night out at Chili's was $50 or $100, for example — but the information above provides insight into where people were at particular times, perhaps who they've living with, and even details like they're planning a vacation this summer.

You might even share things that could get you in trouble. What if an employer saw a transaction about betting, a payment for drinking late on a work night or something else that could get you in trouble?

How to make your Venmo payments private

Your Venmo transactions are public by default, but they don't need to be. You can make them private so that nobody can see when you're paying another user. It's easy, just do this:

- Login to Venmo

- Choose "Settings" in the top-right corner on the web site, or at the bottom of the left-hand side navigation bar in the app.

- Select "Privacy" from the bar on the left side of the screen on the web site. (It's the third item down in the app.)

- Change your default privacy setting to "Private." The app will ask you if you're sure you want to do this, or if you just want to make each individual transaction private. Select "Change Anyway."

- Under "Past Payments" select "Change All to Private."

It should look like this:

You can also manually change each payment to "private" when you make a payment by selecting from a small drop-down menu, but there's really no reason to have these payments public. You wouldn't want any ol' Joe digging through your bank statement would you?

Venmo will use some of this data even if it's private

Unfortunately, these steps might help prevent your friends or strangers from seeing your transactions, but it doesn't prevent Venmo from sharing the details to third parties.

According to Venmo's privacy policy, it sometimes shares your personal information with the person or company that you're sending or receiving money from.

That includes: "Your contact information, date of sign-up, the number of payments you have received and other verification metrics like social graph activity may be provided to users or companies when you transact with, on, or through Venmo."

Here's a look at what it shares that you can't control:

Venmo says it does a lot of this to help with fraud prevention and that the public settings are by design: "Our most active users check Venmo daily and the average user checks Venmo 2-3x per week - and it's not just for payments, but to see what their friends and family are doing," a Venmo spokesperson explained. "This level of engagement, along with the natural adoption of a mobile-first mentality, is what sets Venmo apart from others investing in the space."

Maybe stick to cash if you want to really hide your purchases.