The Most Common Money Transfer Scams and How to Avoid Them
Almost all of us know someone who has fallen victim to the countless money transfer scams on the internet. Maybe it was just a few dollars that they lost, but maybe someone got unauthorized access to their bank account and took the savings they spent their whole lives building, in a matter of seconds. Even if you haven’t experienced the horrors of losing your life savings to a fraudster first-hand, the danger is very real and everyone needs to know how to prevent it from happening.
Types of Money Transfer Scams
Online wiring is a convenient service that allows quick and easy transfers of money. However, this convenience is exactly the thing that makes it so popular with swindlers. With just a few clicks the money disappears from one account and appears in another, irreversibly.
To be clear, these scams aren’t just internet trolls that phish for a few dollars. Some of these are elaborate schemes run by rings of con men who are after your bank account information. Let’s see what are the most popular scams online and how do they work.
Wife Transfer Fraud
This is a very popular scam in which the fraudster doesn’t ask you to send him the money, but instead, promises to send you money. They try to find “logical” reasons for a stranger to be doing this like you won a lottery of some sort, or they need you to forward the money to someone else.
Now, you may think, how would you get scammed if you are the one who is receiving the money? The answer is simple, they aren’t after your money, but rather, your bank account information.
As we previously mentioned, not all money wire scams are straightforward and easy to read and this is why many people are falling for them. Once you share your bank information you will obviously not see a cent of the money you were promised, and the swindler will do their best to abuse your information and extract money from your account.
The Infamous “Nigerian Prince” Scam
It is safe to assume that all of us have received an email from a Nigerian Prince that has all the money in the world but still needs your help somehow. This one is a wire transfer scam classic and most people would recognize the foul play immediately. But there are some more believable versions of it and many people fall for them.
For example, if it’s not a Nigerian Prince, but rather, a refugee needing you to help their family, your empathy kicks in. After all, they will send you the money, not the other way around, so what’s the worse that can happen? Never share your bank information with a stranger, no matter how harmless it seems.
Fake Lottery Scams
This is another prime example from the book of wire transfer scam classics. How is it that you play the lottery all your life and have never won the jackpot, but won it on a lottery that you never enrolled in? That one is easy, you didn’t.
Most scammers just want you to send them the money for “processing fees” and “taxes.” Some people get tempted because their “winnings” are so much bigger than the “charges” they need to pay, so they wire the money. In the process, they share their banking information and potentially make way for scammers to rob them for much more than these bogus charges.
Fake Check and Money Order Scams
You receive a fake check or a fake money order and you are asked to deposit it and then send the money to someone else and keep a percentage for yourself, for your troubles. This scam works because banks usually take weeks to realize that the check is fake.
When you deposit the check, the money will appear in your bank account and you will forward them to where the scammer wants you to. When the bank figures it out, it will be you who deposited a fake check and you who needs to repay the money you withdraw from it.
When running their wire transfer scams, many fraudsters like to impersonate a well-known and respectable company. This is known as phishing. They will try to make you believe that you are being contacted by your bank, a money transfer service, the customer support of a service you are using, etc.
It is usually with the excuse that there is something wrong with your account and they need your information to fix it. In some cases, it can be a once-in-a-lifetime offer or anything you are inclined to say “yes” to. Remember, no one, not your bank, not your internet provider, not even your government will ever ask you for your bank account information.
Romantic Wire Transfer Frauds
Also known as online dating scams, they are happening more often than you’d think. There is a great number of people that believe they found the love of their life, or at least someone they really, really like, only to get duped.
After a brief conversation, it turns out that this person is in desperate need of thousands of dollars for their parent’s surgery or something like that. Some people are so blinded by emotion, they send them money in the heat of the moment, only to get blocked moments after.
Apartment Rental Scam
This is a money transfer scam in which the victim gets lured in by an apartment with a surprisingly low and affordable price. When you contact the landlord they ask you to send some money for an application fee, a security deposit, or the first month’s rent.
Once you send them the money, you lose all trace of the landlord and eventually find out the advert was a fake. The scammer used information and photos from a different rental ad, but stated their contact information to scam you. The same scam is run on vacation rentals as well.
Online Shopping Scams
Before you order anything online, remember that anyone can create a website. This gives scammers endless possibilities for running all kinds of wire transfer scams. From the most obvious frauds where you pay for an item that no one ever intended to ship to your address, to more intricate schemes where your personal information is the main target.
These websites will take anything you give them. Don’t even share your email address with websites that seem sketchy and offer too-good-to-be-true offers. Clever-enough hackers will find their way to your bank account even if all you did was click the link they provided you with.
How to Spot and Prevent Wire Transfer Scams
Of course, there are countless other ways swindlers get you to send them money or share your bank information with them. While we could not cover every single money transfer fraud in today’s article, the scams we missed have a lot in common with the ones you had a chance to read about in detail. As a result, there are a few red flags that give away any fraudulent activity you may run into online, so keep a lookout for them.
Money Wire Scams: The Red Flags
A stranger is asking you to wire them money. That’s all it takes for you to see a sign of danger and there is no need to go any deeper than that. Regardless of the reason that they may provide, the mere fact that someone you don’t know is asking you for money should be enough for you to be on your toes or simply walk away.
A stranger is willing to wire you money. When it the last time you gave money away to a complete stranger and trusted them to do with them as they’re told? As previously explained, this is a classic money transfer scam aiming to gain access to your sensitive information. Never share your bank account information with anyone.
The other party insists on only email communication. In some cases, experienced con men will even talk to you on the phone, but refuse to meet with you in person due to a well-though up excuse. Keep a look out for this red flag when renting an apartment, buying a used car, etc. Try to always make deals in person with proper paperwork and never pay in advance.
The other party is asking you for sensitive information. Not necessarily related to your bank account. In addition to wire transfer fraud, not sharing any type of personal information will keep you safe from identity theft, getting hacked, and other kinds of trouble. Remember, no one, not any service, not the police, not any authority needs to know your passwords.
The offer is too good to be true. Don’t waste your time with these offers, as they are not as harmless as they appear to be at first sight. Scroll down, close the tab, do whatever, just don’t interact with their links. There are tons of well-respected online stores where you can do your shopping. You didn’t accidentally stumble upon a great offer.
You Encountered a Wire Transfer Fraud – What to Do Now?
So you received an email with the all too familiar “Congratulations!” or “You’re a Winner!” subject and want to know what your next move should be. If it is only an email, you shouldn’t be too worried as you can block the sender and try to get some sort of spam protection filter to avoid receiving more. Just make sure you don’t interact with the email you received.
If you received an unexpected check, make sure you contact your local or state consumer protection agency, as they will give you the best advice on how to deal with that. Everyone is a potential victim of money wire scams so it is important to notify the authorities when you encounter one and let them help you and people around you.
If you get harassed by scammers over the phone, you can report that too. You can easily find the contact information of the Federal Trade Commission (or a local equivalent) online and let them know. Most money-transferring services also provide their contact information in case you need help with fraudulent activities so you can try their numbers as well.
FAQs on Money Transfer Scams
Why would a scammer want to send me money?
Can you get scammed if someone sends you money through Venmo?
How long does it take to investigate a wire transfer?
How can you tell a fake wire transfer?
The Bottom Line
Con men will do anything they can think of to rip you off. While modern technology provides plenty of useful services meant to bring extra convenience to our lives, there are always those who will abuse them.
There aren’t lengths that fraudsters wouldn’t go to ensure the success of their money transfer scams. They will act like people in need, tell you your loved ones are in trouble, impersonate reputable companies, and even fake a romantic relationship with you to get to your money.
As long as you’re not naive and keep a healthy dose of scepticism in mind, you should be okay. Don’t interact with them at all and report them to the respective authorities.