Wiring money can be a quick and convenient way to transfer funds, but before sending money to anyone it is important to take steps to protect yourself from fraud.
It’s important to remember, when you wire money it is similar to sending cash in that once it is gone, it is gone and there are few ways to get it back.
Here are tips to help protect yourself from wire transfer scams.
How it Works
Scammers use a variety of tactics, including:
- Acting as if they’re from a government agency like the Internal Revenue Service and claiming you owe money, using threatening language to get you to act quickly. They may also pretend to be a representative from a legitimate business.
- Pretending to be a friend or loved one who is in trouble and needs money quickly to help. With advances in artificial intelligence, scammers are leveraging more and more realistic “deep fakes” of real people to target their victims. Romance scams leverage similar tactics, so it is important to never overshare information about yourself online.
- Asking you to wire money via legitimate companies like Western Union or even your bank to try to keep your suspicions at bay. They may even send you a check – often for more than the amount they’re requesting back to cover any “fees” – and tell you to deposit it before wiring your funds to them. The check they sent is fake and once the bank you deposited the check at realizes, you will be the one left on the hook.
- Notifying you that they owe you money, then deceiving you into believing they accidentally refunded significantly more than they intended to your bank account. They then ask you to send a wire transfer for the difference between the supposed refund and the amount they claimed to have sent to your account.
- Applying pressure to act immediately. This is a common red flag for a variety of scams and is designed to get you to act without thinking first.
- They may even tell you to lie to your bank about why you’re wiring the funds and your relationship to the recipient. Prior to initiating a large dollar wire transfer, banks often ask these questions to help identify a scam.
How to Protect Yourself
- First and foremost, it is important to only send money to those you know. This includes when using P2P apps like Zelle® and Venmo as well, so it is important to take steps to safely use P2P platforms.
- Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, text messages and emails. Scammers have been known to spoof legitimate numbers and emails for businesses. If something seems off, hang up or delete the message you received and contact the business or bank directly using the phone number from their official website.
- Mark your social media profiles as private and be cautious how much information you share about yourself online. Oversharing can provide a gold mine for scammers.
- Take a deep breath before acting. Scammers use pressure tactics to get you to proceed without thinking.
If You’ve Been a Victim
If you’ve been the victim of these or any other scams:
- Contact the company or bank you wired the money through as soon as possible to ask for the transaction to be reversed if possible.
- Contact your bank and credit card companies immediately to freeze your accounts, get new cards and account numbers, and to report any fraudulent activity.
- File a police report, as well as a report with the Federal Trade Commission (reportfraud.ftc.gov) and Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov).
Scammers continue to get more sophisticated in their tactics as technology advances, but with the proper vigilance, you can help keep yourself and your bank account safe.
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