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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Americans lost $905 million to fraud last year — and wire transfers were the biggest culprit.

Last year, 2.7 million people filed complaints with the FTC about scams. Learn what to look out for so you can keep your money safe.

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
“Get out of jail”A person claiming to be a loved one asks you to wire bail moneyNever send a money transfer until you can verify you know the recipient
“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 link; 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 backDon’t cash the money order; ignore this offer
CharityDonation requests from a fake charity posing as real oneNever wire money when donating to charity, regardless of its legitimacy
Nigerian dignitarySomeone contacts you to help recover a large sum of money, and need your bank account info to help pay feesNever provide financial information over email
“Stranded traveler”A loved one claims to be in trouble, and they are asking for you to send cashNever 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 moneyNever 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.

“Get out of jail” scams

An email or phone call may come in from someone claiming to be a loved one, or from someone claiming to be an attorney or police officer on behalf of a loved one. The person requests money be wired immediately in order to post bail.

  • What to do

Never send money without verifying the identity of the recipient. If you’re concerned you may be leaving someone in the wind, ask for the details of where they’re supposedly being held then try to contact the loved one through friends, family members and contact information you had prior to the call.

“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 scams

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.

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 lead 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.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
USD 0 3 - 5 days USD 0.00 18.799 MXN 93,995 Offering no maximum and no minimum limit transfers with $0 fees. Go to site Show details
USD 1 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 18.951 MXN
94,756
Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks. Go to site Show details
USD 1 Within an hour USD 0.00 18.694 MXN 93,472 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details
USD 1,000 1 day USD 0.00 18.761 MXN 93,805 No-maximum limit transfers with competitive exchange rates for 100+ currencies. Go to site Show details
GBP 1,000 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 18.875 MXN 94,376 Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
For larger transfers, get no transaction fees and no maximum send limits.
Go to site Show details
USD 5,000 1 day USD 0.00 18.628 MXN 93,139 Venstar will support you through the entire process of your international transactions, from start to finish. Go to site Show details
USD 50 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 18.628 MXN 93,139 Simple, zero-margin exchange rates, plus earn loyalty points on sign up, referral and every transaction. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

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.

Frequently asked questions

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US International Money Transfers Offers

Important Information*
Logo for XE Money Transfer
XE Money Transfer

Offering no maximum and no minimum limit transfers with $0 fees.

Logo for WorldRemit International Money Transfers
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Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up.

Logo for TransferWise
TransferWise

Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks.

Logo for CurrencyTransfer
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Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
For larger transfers, get no transaction fees and no maximum send limits.

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44 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    EricMay 7, 2019

    I’ve never used an international money transfer service before. How do I know if I’m getting scammed?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MaiMay 7, 2019Staff

      Hi Eric,

      Thank you for reaching out.

      This page list cautions and things that you should consider to avoid being scammed. For international money transfer, I suggest that you only transact with reputable money transfer agencies and see what other companies are saying about them so you can consider whether you will use them or not.

      Rule of thumb is you should always follow your guts.

      Hope this helps! 😊

      Kind Regards,
      Mai

  2. Default Gravatar
    JayMarch 25, 2019

    So I’ve been chatting with a person who doesn’t seem like a robot but many of the replies can be suspicious based on the questions being asked. This person seem to remember everything though, its weird. I helped donate a foundation to a money gram and then now I’ve being asked for money for a package delivery to get to me and now stuck in customs the amount being asked was a ridiculous amount. What’s odd they five their account and routing number plus email to transfer money. So it has to be a scam should I report it?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      johnbasanesMarch 26, 2019Staff

      Hi Jay,

      Thank you for reaching out to Finder.

      To be sure that a company is legitimate, they should have great online visibility to users as well as they could easily be reached. With how you mentioned this company, there seems to be something odd happening as they are asking a ridiculous amount from you for a package. You should be able to verify this by calling the Department of Customs to confirm if suck a package does exist. Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Reggie

  3. Default Gravatar
    JasonMarch 13, 2019

    I sent my ex wife money using walmarts money center for her to use for gas to come pick me up and take me to my vehicle 4 hours away she kept my money and never showed is there anything that can be done

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      nikkiangcoMarch 15, 2019Staff

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for getting in touch! When a transfer from Walmart has been received and withdrawn by the authorized receiver – it is considered a legitimate transaction and this cannot be retracted. We suggest communicating with your ex-wife how to proceed in returning the money.

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

      Best,
      Nikki

  4. Default Gravatar
    WashingtonFebruary 25, 2019

    Someone wired me a number of funds to my account, instructs me to withdraw a portion and keep some for myself! Is that suspicious activity? This fund is even sent to me without my authorization. What should I do? Should I ask the bank to return the money to the sender?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaFebruary 26, 2019Staff

      Hi Washington,

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

      It is rare for a complete stranger to send money to your bank account. If this happens, it could be that the sender knows you somehow and sent you money. In this case, you might also know the sender. For this reason, you can ask your bank to trace the money transfer and get as much information as possible so you can identify the sender.

      It is important that you report this activity to your bank. If you believe that you receive money which you are not entitled to, the money transfer is suspicious in nature. It could be a red flag that indicates money laundering activities. If you don’t want to get entangled with any illegal activities, it is only proper that you discuss this with your bank.

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

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  5. Default Gravatar
    CpFebruary 8, 2019

    I sent somebody some money on Craigslist to rent a house. And they said they would send me the keys and I have never seen the keys but they have sent me a lease and everything threw my email I think I have been scam

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      ValFebruary 16, 2019Staff

      Hi Cp,

      Thank you for leaving a question. Sorry to hear about the experience. Have you given out your personal information for this? Best if you reach out to your local police to have this investigate before moving further.

      Hope all will be well.

      Kind Regards,
      Val

  6. Default Gravatar
    RJJanuary 28, 2019

    Hi!
    I have been talking to this guy from UK not too long. He said that he sends a package for me as gift, then days after that conversation a certain number called me about the package. I was so shocked because I need to pay 15 200 cash for the tax in order for it to be delivered and need to be send at any remittance center or bdo account . My question is, is it legit and I have to send the money or a scam? Please I need your advice, 15200 is not a joke sum of money. Thank you.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      johnbasanesJanuary 29, 2019Staff

      Hi RJ,

      Thank you for reaching out to finder.

      What you would want to do is to locate the company that is asking for the 15,200 payment for tax of the item. Check the breakdown of the payment requested as well as the legitimacy of the company. You may also want to check with the DTI if this company is registered to do business in the Philippines. Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Reggie

  7. Default Gravatar
    CheriDecember 19, 2018

    I have a friend who claims to be a doctor with the UN and is about to retire. He tells me his bank Comerz Bank in London is closing and he’s worried he’s going to lose his money. He’s been pressuring me to contact the bank to wire funds into my account. It sounds shady to me. Please advise.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      nikkiangcoDecember 20, 2018Staff

      Hi Cheri,

      Thanks for getting in touch! Ultimately, it would be reasonable to use your best judgment to wire funds. The information above will serve as a checklist for you to find any red flags and help you make a sound decision. Hope this helps!

      Best,
      Nikki

  8. Default Gravatar
    PaulaNovember 26, 2018

    I have been taking to a guy that says he wants me to pay for his luggage so he can come home. He says its a gift from him working overseas from Nigeria … He says he from Germany but lived in south Carolina But all of his money is stuck in 401k account and can’t get it until he gets out and the other guy says he is wanting to come home to. To see his son but the us army won’t pay for it he is from virginia I looked them up and they come up but with no picture or real age listed they need to have a free site for this no payment so some of is that have no account can look them up

    • Default Gravatar
      joelmarceloNovember 27, 2018

      Hi Paula,

      Thanks for leaving a question on finder.

      It looks like you are about to be scammed judging from the circumstances you mentioned above. Never provide financial information over email. One rule of thumb is: Never send money to someone you have not met in person. You can instead block these senders and be cautious in responding to contacts from people you do not know.

      Please send me a message if you need anything else. :)

      Cheers,
      Joel

  9. 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?

    • Avatarfinder 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

  10. 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.

    • Avatarfinder 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

US International Money Transfers Offers

Important Information*
Logo for XE Money Transfer
XE Money Transfer

Offering no maximum and no minimum limit transfers with $0 fees.

Logo for WorldRemit International Money Transfers
WorldRemit International Money Transfers

Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up.

Logo for TransferWise
TransferWise

Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks.

Logo for CurrencyTransfer
CurrencyTransfer

Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
For larger transfers, get no transaction fees and no maximum send limits.

Go to site