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Avoiding Money Transfer Scams

Money transfer scams involve cash transfers, such as wire transfers, Moneygram® transfers, Western Union transfers or similar cash-like transfers. It can be a helpful tool to send funds to family and friends, but it can also be a quick way for thieves to steal your money and disappear before you realize what happened.


Signs someone is trying to scam you

The following scenarios may indicate you’re the victim of a money transfer scam. Don’t send or wire the money in these or similar situations, especially one involving a direct transfer to a stranger’s account. Using a wire transfer or money transfer service is like sending cash ­— once you send the money, it’s nearly impossible to trace it or get it back.

  • A stranger claims your loved one is in jail, a foreign hospital, or at risk some other way, and you need to send money immediately in complete secrecy. (Or any other situation in which the person needs the money urgently and asks you to send it quickly.)
  • You won the lottery or another prize but need to pay taxes or fees to receive it
  • You have received too much money (possibly from a purchase or sale on Craigslist) and need to send the bank or person a money transfer or wire to return it. They may even offer to let you keep a percentage of the money as an incentive.
  • You need to deposit a check into your bank account and transfer money back to the stranger. The check may even look like an official cashier’s check. The check will bounce, and you’ll be out the cash as well as a bounced check fee.

This scenario plays out in several different scams: you’re hired as a “mystery shopper” to deposit funds at a bank, you’re renting a property and the “renter” never intended to live there at all, you get a check in advance for a new job but you need to send money back for equipment or supplies, etc.

  • Someone asks for your bank account number, credit card number, etc for any reason.
  • You purchase an item online or “win” a bid at an online auction. The seller requires you wire the money (rather than pay through a service such as PayPal or with a credit card) before you receive the purchase.
  • You can get a loan—even with bad credit—but you have to pay a small fee first.
  • Your “boss” (actually a phishing scammer targeting your company’s email accounts) demands you immediately wire a large amount of money to a company you’ve never heard of.
  • An online friend or romantic interest you’ve never met in person asks for money. You could be the victim of both “phishing” and “catfishing.”

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