“Wiring” funds electronically is an easy and convenient way to send cash to someone, and when consumers wire money to people they know, the transaction typically takes place without a problem. However, wiring money to strangers (in the U.S. or abroad) is risky because often the recipient may be scam artists.
“Crooks like their victims to use wire transfers because the money moves fast and they can take the money and run before the victim discovers the truth,” explained Michael Benardo, manager of the FDIC’s Cyber Fraud and Financial Crimes Section. “Con artists also know that the transaction is difficult to reverse, and the money is difficult to get back. That’s why they will use any tactic to convince people to wire money to a complete stranger.”
So how can you protect yourself against wire fraud?
Never wire money to people you don’t know, regardless of how convincing or enticing their story may be. Scammers often win their victims’ confidence with “bait,” such as a work-at-home offer, a great deal on a product for sale, or news that you have won some kind of lottery. Be especially careful with transactions over the Internet, where the other person’s true identity can remain anonymous.
If you’re being pressed to make a decision or send money fast, it’s probably a sign of a scam. Crooks might frighten you with a phone call that a loved one is in trouble and needs cash sent to the caller immediately.
Walk away from any offer from a stranger who asks you to deposit a check into your bank account and instructs you to wire any of that money to someone else, perhaps in another country. Let’s say you receive a check, cashier’s check or money order for an item you are selling or to cover so-called processing fees, shipping costs or other expenses. However, you notice that the check is for more money – perhaps far more – than what you were expecting. The other party instructs you to deposit the check and wire a portion back to an associate in another country. Later you find out that the check was fake and you are out all of the money you wired. In this type of scam, victims may end up owing thousands of dollars to the financial institution that wired the money.
Likewise, if you are selling something online, be wary of a request by a “buyer” to wire you the money because that may be a ruse to get your bank account information. This person may also plan to send you the money illegally using someone else’s bank account number, and ultimately you’d be without your merchandise as well any payment.
Never give out your bank account or credit card numbers in response to an advertisement or an unsolicited call, text message or e-mail. This information can enable someone to steal money out of your account by a wire transfer, before you have time to realize that the interaction was fabricated by a swindler.
Source: The Federal Trade Commission