Money Wiring Scams

What It Is

What is wiring money?

When you wire money, you are sending cash to someone far away.  This is also called a money transfer. 

Many people wire money to family or friends in other cities or countries.   

Wiring money is like sending cash.  When you wire money, you cannot get the money back. 

What are money wiring scams?

Dishonest people might convince you to wire money to them.  They might say:

  • you just won a prize but you have to pay fees to get the prize
  • you need to pay for something you just bought online before they send it
  • a friend is in trouble and needs your help
  • you got a check for too much money and you need to send back the extra

These are not good reasons to wire money.  You should never wire money to someone you do not know.

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What To Know

How do money wiring scams work?

In a money wiring scam, a dishonest person lies and tricks you into wiring money to them.

The scammer might say:

  • you won a prize, or inherited money, but you have to pay fees first
  • you won the lottery, but you have to pay some taxes first
  • a friend or family member is in trouble and needs you to send money
  • you need to pay for something you just bought online before they send it
  • you got a check for too much money and you need to send back the extra

These are all tricks.  If you wire money, the scammer will keep it.  You will not get your money back.

Wiring money is like sending cash.  When you wire money, you cannot get it back.

For Example

There are good reasons to wire money, right?

Yes. Many people send money to family or friends in other countries.  Wiring money is a quick way to get cash to people you care about.  Read more about sending money overseas.

How can I tell what is a good reason to wire money?

Someone you do not know might ask you to wire money. That is probably a scam.

Scammers are clever.  They try to make things look real.  Which of these choices looks like a scam?

  • You send money to your aunt in Manila.  You do it every month.
  • You get a call from your grandson. He says he’s in trouble in Canada and needs your help. He asks you to wire money. He asks you not to tell his parents.

The second choice is a scam. The Federal Trade Commission gets complaints about this scam.

What about these choices?  Are any of them scams?

  • You buy something online. The seller tells you to pay by wiring money.
  • You get a check for something you are selling. The check is for too much money.  The buyer tells you to deposit the check and wire the extra money.
  • Someone calls to say you inherited money, but first you have to wire money for the taxes.
  • You see an ad promising you a credit card. But first you have to wire money to pay to apply.

All these are scams. Someone you do not know might call or email you.  They might ask you to wire money. That person is probably a scammer. No matter what they tell you.

What if the story sounds true?

Scammers are very good at fooling people.  Scammers also want to rush you.  They want your money before you have time to think.

Before you do anything, stop and check.

  • The person who needs money for an emergency?  Call that person.  Call another family member.  Find out if anything happened.
  • The check for too much money?  Call the bank before you deposit the check.  Ask what they think about wiring money back to someone.
  • The inheritance or prize? You do not have to pay for a prize.  Ever.  Did they say you have an inheritance? Talk to someone you trust.  What does that person think?  

What happens if I wired money to someone who called me?

You might have sent money to someone who contacted you.  That money is probably gone.  You will not get it back.

If you gave money to a scammer once, you will probably get another call for money.  You can help yourself. Do not give the scammer any more money.

You also can help other people. Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission.

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What To Do

Wiring money is like sending cash.  Do not wire money to people you do not know. 

How do I spot a money wiring scam?

Most money wiring scams look like this:

  • someone you do not know asks you to wire money

A scammer might use different ways to convince you to wire money.  The scammer might say:

  • you won a prize, or inherited money, but you have to pay fees first
  • you won the lottery, but you have to pay some taxes first
  • a friend or family member is in trouble and needs you to send money to help
  • you need to pay for something you just bought online before they send it
  • you got a check for too much money and need to send back the extra

These are all tricks.  When you hear stories like these, you have spotted a money wiring scam.

How do I avoid a money wiring scam?

Scammers are good at being friendly. They also are good at fooling people.   Here is how you can stop a scammer:

  • Never wire money to someone you do not know. 
  • Never wire money because someone contacted you:
    • even if you feel like you know the person
    • even if the person says he is your friend or related to you

What if I already wired money to someone?

If you sent money to someone who contacted you, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

The FTC uses complaints to build cases against scammers.  Any information you can give helps investigators.

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