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How to Know If a Wire Transfer Is a Scam

A scam can occur in many different forms. Whether it’s a romance, apartment/vacation rental, utility, family emergency or prize scam, fraudsters are out to get your money, and they act fast. Scammers are inclined to use wire transfers because they are finalized quickly, and it is difficult for the victim to get their money back or to track the scam to an individual. High pressure tactics or targeting emotional human vulnerabilities are used to convince victims into sending their money.

Here are tips on how to stop wire fraud in its tracks:

  1. Verify wire instructions with the beneficiary of the money. Speak directly with the individual who is receiving the funds through a published or known phone number. If possible, only wire money to those you have met in person.
  2. Thoroughly review instructions and documentation. Look for inconsistencies such as grammatical errors, misspellings, multiple vendors names, and anything else that looks off.
  3. What is the individual on the other end saying? Are they applying pressure or saying the transfer needs to be done immediately? Are they saying the only way to pay is through a wire transfer? Are they instructing you on what to say to your financial institute? Is communication becoming more threatening? If you answered yes to any of the questions above, it’s likely a scam.

In the moment, emotions are heightened, and you may not be thinking clearly. Hang up or pause and think before acting. Due diligence in confirming information through known and trusted phone numbers, checking for errors, and being conversationally aware can prevent loss of money.

If you have already wired money, act fast. Contact the wire transfer company and your bank immediately to let them know it was a fraudulent transfer and ask them to reverse and refund the wire. Next, report the situation to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov