Complete list of the most common money transfer scams | finder.com
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Keep your money safe from money transfer scams

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Look out for common scams to avoid being separated from your money.

Billions of dollars are transferred among friends, family and businesses around the world through international money transfers every day. Unfortunately, 1 in 10 people have been defrauded through online schemes designed to take as much of that money as they can. While not all scams will reach you online, phishing and other cybercrime cost Americans nearly $100 billion each year.

And scammers are only becoming more sophisticated, using increasingly elaborate schemes to trick you into revealing personal and financial information. Here, we look at some of the most common online wire scams so that you can know what to look for and avoid being a victim.

Common money transfer scams to watch out for

ScamWhat to watch out forWhat to do
Online purchasesAsking for money up frontDo not pay up front, ask to meet or arrange escrow
Lottery and sweepsMust pay a fee to receive your prizeIgnore it; it’s not a real prize
“Guaranteed” loansRequest to pay for your application or taxes before you receive the loanRip it up; do not send the money
PhishingAsking for personal details over email (bank accounts, passwords, SSN)Do not reply or click any links – forward the email to spam@uce.gov
Bogus checksReceiving a check payment with a request to wire the difference back to the senderTake it to your bank to verify if its real or fake
Mystery shopperYou’re sent a check along with your welcome letter and told to send a money order back.Don’t cash the money order – ignore this offer.
CharityDonation requests from a fake charity posing as real one.Never wire money when donating to charity, regardless of their legitimacy.
Nigerian dignitarySomeone contacts you to help recover a large sum of money, and need your bank account info to help pay fees.Never provide financial information over email.
“Stranded traveler”A loved claims to be in trouble, and they are asking for you to send cash.Never send a money transfer until you can verify you know the recipient.
Online datingGetting to know someone online and after you feel a connection, they ask you to wire money.Never send money to someone you have not met in person.

Online purchase scams

You’ve found your dream apartment but are requested to transfer the first month’s rent up front. Or a timeshare, but there are taxes you need to take care of with a money order first. Maybe your search for a car has paid off with an unbelievable deal, but there are application fees you need to cover with a wire transfer. While many online retailers are legitimate, scammers leverage the anonymity of the Internet to rip you off. That includes asking for money before you’ve even gotten the merchandise. Before you know it, they’re gone — along with your money.

  • What to do

Be wary of anybody online who tells you there’s upfront deposits or payments — especially if you haven’t yet met them and there’s no contract. And if anybody online says you can only pay with a wire transfer or money order, find another retailer. Or ask to meet in person.

Lottery and sweepstakes scams

What luck! You’ve received a letter that you’ve scored a prize. Or maybe you’re contacted about a lottery you’ve won. It’s a lot of money, and there’s only one catch: you first need to pay a fee or cover taxes to receive it. It’s such a small amount, about $1,000. Surely that’s worth receiving what you’re due.

  • What to do

You should never have to pay up front to receive a prize or lottery winnings. That alone should raise red flags. But if you’re curious, research the organization or company from which you’ve received your letter to see what others have to say. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“Guaranteed” loan scams

You get a letter that you’re guaranteed approval for a loan or credit card. There’s only one last task before you can get it: wire money for the application or taxes. That’s easy enough, right?

  • What to do

You should never need to send money in order to receive an authentic credit card or loan. Instead of sending the money, research the company who sent you the letter. You’ll probably see warnings from others to rip it up.

Phishing scams

You open your computer to an email from your bank asking you to verify your account number. Or it could be from an e-retailer needing confirmation of your password. Sometimes it’s a link from your email provider itself asking you to click and double-check your details. It’s all so official, how could it not be legit?

  • What to do

Don’t be tricked into giving out any personal information. Keep in mind that you will never be emailed by a legitimate bank, retailer or other service provider to confirm your personal information, financial details or password. This is called “phishing”, and you should not reply or click any links in the email – instead simply forward it to the Federal Trade Commission’s dedicated email address, spam@uce.gov.

Bogus check scams

Because you’re the online seller doesn’t mean you’re safe from scammers. Unbelievably, they’ll find a way even when the tables are turned. You may have gotten a reply to your online auction with a check that’s for more than your item — with simple request for you to wire back the difference. The check is likely fake, leaving you on the hook for both the money you wire and a bounced check fee from your bank.

  • What to do

If you receive a cashier’s check, do not cash it. Take it to your bank or the authorities for verification.

Mystery shopper scams

You may be contacted about a fun new gig: becoming a mystery shopper for a local retail chain. Along with your welcome letter, you’re sent a money order. Only the amount is more than it should be. When you contact the number on your letter, you’re told to go ahead and cash it, and then simply send a money order for the overage. Better yet, send a wire transfer to make it you refund the company more quickly.

  • What to do

You’ve likely recognized this for what it is: just another variation of the bogus check scam. Do not cash the money order. And lose the number for this bogus company, instead of losing your hard-earned cash.

Charity scam

Disasters bring out the best in people. But they can also unearth con artists who prey on the altruistic. Be cautious of letters requesting donations in cash or by wire transfer to cover the cost of aid.

  • What to do

Research the charity online with a site like Charity Navigator. Because some scammers use names that closely resemble well-known, reputable organizations, Google the exact name shown in your email or letter. And never wire money to anybody claiming to be a charity. It’s best to pay by check or credit card.

Nigerian dignitary scams

Though it’s the butt of many jokes, the “Nigerian prince” scam is among the top five largest revenue sources for Nigeria — it’s that successful. For this scam, you’re contacted by somebody requesting your help in recovering a great deal of money. They claim that if you help them by providing your banking account information or money to pay fees, you’ll be rewarded with a substantial portion of the money.

  • What to do

This is just another variation of the advance fee scam. Never provide your financial information or send money to anybody you don’t know.

“Stranded traveler” scams

This one involves an email from friends, often ones traveling abroad, who’ve found themselves in trouble and need money wired immediately to return home. The amount is nearly always $1,000 or more and may even appear to come from a friend’s actual email address. Except it’s not actually your friend who’s sending it. Instead, their account has been hijacked through a phishing scam.

  • What to do

Be wary of any email from a friend in trouble overseas. Attempt to make contact with them or confirm their whereabouts with your social network. As with other scams, never wire money without being certain you know the recipient. How to safely make an emergency money transfer to a friend or family member.
The world traveler’s guide to money management

Online dating scams

Another tough one — and therefore popular among scammers — involves a bond with somebody you’ve met online through a dating site. Often, that person wants to immediately leave the site for a more intimate IM or text chat. They may claim to be working overseas with plans to visit soon. Over the course of some time, you’re let to believe there’s a strong connection. And then they ask for you to wire some money.

  • What to do

By now, you know the answer: don’t wire money to anybody you don’t know. You could ask to meet in person, even if it seems impossible — their refusal will be a clear sign that they may not be who they say they are. If you were emailed a photo, consider using a reverse photo search to see if you can confirm the name you’ve been given. You may discover many names attached to the photo. Again, a clear sign that you’re dealing with a scammer.

How to keep safe from scammers

Avoid becoming a victim of a wire transfer scam by following a few basic tenets:

  • Never wire money to strangers. Period.
  • Pay by credit card. That way, you’ll have some recourse if things go awry.
  • Be wary of unsolicited email. Your email, financial and other service providers will never email you to confirm personal info or passwords.
  • Go with your gut. Con artists deal in pressure and threats. When in doubt, slow down. A quick online search can often confirm your suspicions.

How to choose a reputable money transfer provider

Most reputable online providers will have up to date security measures in place to make sure your data and information is secure when sending an international money transfer. Many will have dedicated email addresses or customer service phone lines to receive tips on potential scams. When choosing a provider, don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and compare your options to find the safest one for you.

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I may be the victim of a scam. What should I do?

If you suspect that you’re the victim of a money transfer scam:

  • Call your local police. File a police report for the amount you’ve been defrauded.
  • File a complaint with the FTC. Call toll-free at 877-382-4357 or file a complaint online at ftc.gov/complaint.
  • Contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center. This partnership of the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center is for victims of fraud that began with Internet contact.

Many online seller websites like eBay have their own protocol for reporting and dealing with scammers. If you’ve wired money, you can also alert your wire transfer company of your situation so they can be ready for any future complaints. While it’s tough to admit that you might have been the victim of somebody’s wrongdoing, try not to be too hard on yourself. Wire transfer scams are on the rise because these cons are constantly evolving. By reporting it and talking openly about your experience, you’re helping others to recognize and put a stop to them.
Learn about credit card skimmers and how to keep your card safe.

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28 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    KamauOctober 9, 2018

    had applied for a loan online i was told to pay insurance fee i didn’t instead i asked them to deduct from the amount they were to give to me but they claimed its against the company’s policy should i risk sending or this is a scam?

    • finder Customer Care
      nikkiangcoOctober 10, 2018Staff

      Hi Kamau,

      Thanks for your inquiry and for visiting our page.

      As per our page on GUARANTEED LOAN SCAMS, it would be best to have the loan policy in hand before agreeing to any “insurance fee.” Any loan that asks you for payment before giving out a loan policy may be a guaranteed scam.

      Hope this was helpful. Don’t hesitate to message us back if you have more questions.

      Regards,
      Nikki

  2. Default Gravatar
    BrendaOctober 4, 2018

    I have been talking to a gentleman for five months. He called today wanted to direct deposit a large sum of money in my account. I have not gave my information. What kind of scam is this.

    • finder Customer Care
      AshOctober 5, 2018Staff

      Hello Brenda,

      Thank you for reaching out to us.

      Do not provide your Bank Account details or any of your Personal Information as they may hack it. This may fall under “Phishing” and you may report this to spam@uce.gov.

      I hope this helps.

      Please do not hesitate to contact us again if you have additional questions.

      Cheers,
      Ash

  3. Default Gravatar
    AstridSeptember 29, 2018

    I had met a guy claiming to be from Charlotte n Carolina, flew to sa and then at or tambo airport in Jhb said he had a chq which was made out in amount of $356 000.00 customs needed a fee to be paid otherwise he’d be deported , the cheque said Bank of America and his Skype calls and photos were legit however JHB customs said they had nobody being held at customs

    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaOctober 2, 2018Staff

      Hi Astrid,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      It is good that you asked JHB customs to confirm the veracity of that person’s story. As a rule of thumb, it is wise to always be cautious when dealing with money and people you don’t know. If people ask you for money so that they can give you money, that should be a red flag.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  4. Default Gravatar
    PaxtonSeptember 23, 2018

    If the scammer calls me and pretended to be working in the bank where the transaction took place, should I block him?

    • finder Customer Care
      nikkiangcoSeptember 24, 2018Staff

      Hey Paxton,

      Thanks for your message and for visiting finder.

      I understand that you are in a challenging situation. As a rule of thumb, privacy and safety are always important.
      Your succeeding actions must not compensate you or other people. Please be safe!

      Hope this helps. Feel free to message us again should you have further questions.

      Kind regards,
      Nikki

  5. Default Gravatar
    PaxtonSeptember 23, 2018

    What if it’s the other way around? My love overseas sends me a wire transfer and a receipt as proof. After few days, someone from the bank email me to send additional requirements and to pay stamp duty charges for me to be able to lift the hold on the transaction..is this a scam or fraud?

    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaSeptember 26, 2018Staff

      Hi Paxton,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      Normally, the money transfer company would tell your sender all the expected fees for the transaction to go through. If after the money was sent and you receive a notice that you should pay additional fees, that is something suspicious. To verify, you may directly ask the bank. Moreover, get the name of the person who contacted you and check as well his/her identity. This way you can be sure whether you’re paying a legitimate fee or not.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  6. Default Gravatar
    VeronicaSeptember 9, 2018

    I was contacted via facebook, by a sweet old lady, offering a job at Crowe Horwath, she went thru an application process, and made it seem very real, at the end she said I was hired and the company will send me around $1500.00 for me to buy the software and equipment, but that in order to do that, they had to send me first a gift card of $76.00 but I had to do a moneygram transfer of $100. just to see if everything was verifiable. Obviously I did not fall for it, but wanted to share the experience for other viewers to be aware of just how many scams are out there.

  7. Default Gravatar
    P1978swSeptember 6, 2018

    Hi I have been talking to a guy /company on instagram . Been talking for 10 days and decided to purchase from him . I was worried it was a scam so agreed to pay half upfront half on arrival . I received email saying tracker number from company who has my parcel . The next day I got email asking for 500 dollars for a discreet stamp so my package can get into the uk , I have not paid this as there asking for bitcoin or western union transfer .apparentley you get it back when u get your package . I said I wasn’t comfortable with this , they said I can pay via gmail wallet . So I asked do I send to there account they said no as it’s not gmail ? And sent a gmail address to send it to app a worker ? I have not done this

    • Default Gravatar
      AnadanaSeptember 10, 2018

      Its a scam. Run away for your life and your money..

    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaSeptember 8, 2018Staff

      Hi P1978sw,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      If a merchant isn’t being honest with you like withholding details until you’re in a pinch, then this is more likely to be a scam. Merchants should be responsible enough to tell you all the fees that would come from your transaction and let you make up your mind based on those pieces of information and not just let you know of other fees when you have already paid a portion of the price.

      What you can do is talk to the merchant. From there, you can decide whether you should continue with the purchase or note.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  8. Default Gravatar
    HelenaAugust 27, 2018

    Good Morning

    I have been contacted by a friend I met online to send Western Union money on behalf of some people in Jakarta in Indonesia. The money will supposedly be used to deal with documents of an order that was retained in Customs and that once the problem is solved, a diplomat from a transport company will bring me to my country.

    The procedure is this? money in the name of people or organizations? I’m afraid it’s a fraud.
    I wrote to the Indonesian Embassy in my country and they told me not to send any more money … they would investigate but I have already gone to this month and I have not been told anything else.

    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaSeptember 1, 2018Staff

      Hi Helena,

      If people ask you money online, be sure you are transacting with someone whom you personally knew or trust. It would be a good idea to follow up with the Indonesian Embassy and get some updates.

      If you live in the US, you may report a cybercrime or online scam through this government website or directly get in touch with the Federal Trade Commission.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  9. Default Gravatar
    ConfusedJuly 27, 2018

    Are there scams where people/persons claiming to be soldiers stationed overseas, want to send you a package, then the delivery company is wanting more money from the receiver before delivery?

    • Default Gravatar
      tamarsal89atgmaildotcomAugust 27, 2018

      I am open to share my experience and to also enlighten everyone on how i was able to recover my money from a scam .

    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaSeptember 1, 2018Staff

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      It’s nice to hear that you want to share your experience on how you recover your money from a scam. Please feel free to share it here and we’ll publish it upon approval.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaAugust 6, 2018Staff

      Hi Confused,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      The idea that you need to shell out money to receive the package is a red flag and an indication that it could be a scam. As a general rule, you should only transact with people whom you trust.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  10. Default Gravatar
    Poplife777July 16, 2018

    Is there a any scam where the scammer poses as a mega star where they send you money to send to its destination???? Please educat me..
    Thank you
    Poplife777

    • finder Customer Care
      joelmarceloJuly 19, 2018Staff

      Hi there,

      Thanks for leaving a question on finder.

      It’s easy to be excited and perhaps to feel in awe when you encounter the name of a famous celebrity, and especially if it involves a too good to be true story or a current or potential future meeting with them specially if you are a fan. Just make sure you check them out in detail, especially before parting with money. And never click on those email links. The golden rule is, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. :)

      Cheers,
      Joel

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