9 Common Money Transfer Scams and How to Avoid Them

People send hundreds of billions of dollars in remittances every year. And sadly, because of this volume, certain scammers try to trick people through a money transfer scam. In 2019, wire transfer fraud in America resulted in over $200 million in losses. This was a massive increase over recent years, and the global problem is even larger.

To keep your money and information safe, take a moment to read this guide.

9 Common Money Transfer Scams

As people become better at recognizing fraudulent activities—such as credit card theft and wire transfer fraud—scammers are also improving their methods. This is why it’s important to recognize how scammers these days defraud innocent people’s hard-earned money.

Since it might be complicated to trace many of these scams, your best protection is learning to spot potential fraudulent acts when you encounter them.

Email scams

Email is one of the most common ways that scammers try to commit fraud. These messages will often offer you money, but they will want something in return. In reality, the money is never really there. These scammers are simply trying to get your bank account and other financial information. The conversation typically leads to a request for a wire transfer.

Lotteries and sweepstakes

Money transfer scams in 2021 are increasingly taking the appearance of sweepstakes and lottery prizes.

Unsolicited messages will inform you that you’ve won a remarkable prize, but you can only claim it by sending in a fee or covering customs and taxes. Be careful! This is usually a scam.


“Phishing” is a process where criminals may pretend to be an official from the government, credit agency, or even your bank to learn about your financial information.

If they can get your personal information, they won’t need you to send money manually. They can steal it right out of your account.

Online dating scams

Money transfer scams have also become common on dating apps. Over 25 million people use these apps monthly in America alone. If someone is asking for financial help from you in a brief span of time—especially before you meet—they’re likely a scammer trying to trick you.

Shopping scams

There are various shopping scams. The most common involves offering items for sale online with no intent of shipping them.

Use reputable websites when making online purchases. These online stores usually provide buyer protection and seller ratings, which could be helpful for you to avoid any scams before placing an order.

Scammers may also send you a check for “mystery shopper” activities. If this happens, you can assume that it’s a fake check. They’ll ask you to send back a money order, wire transfer, or some other form of payment. In the end, you’ll lose your money and get nothing for the original “check.”

Facebook impersonation scam

Facebook and other social media sites provide a simple tool for individuals engaged in money transfer scams.

Be wary of friend requests from people you don’t know, and check with loved ones if you get a message or request from a new account in their name. This is a common way that scammers build trust before requesting money.

Fake charities

Scammers may request money for fake charities. Charity scams take advantage of people’s goodwill.

When you get a phone call or an email related to such a request, always check if this charity actually exists and is legal before sending your money to them.

Stranded loved ones

Scammers may contact you pretending to be a family member. They’ll claim that they’re stranded somewhere or are in an emergency and need money sent to them right away.

They’ll often request that you wire money, pay with gift cards, or send cryptocurrency—these methods of sending funds are nearly impossible to trace. When encountering this situation, contact your loved ones first to make sure they’re safe.

Immigration scam

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be an immigration official, it’s okay to feel suspicious immediately. Scammers may call you and claim there’s a problem with your immigration documents that you can solve by making an immediate money transfer or providing your account information.

They may even provide personal information or make threats of deportation, but you should never feel worried or even give out personal financial information.

According to USCIS, the government will never ask you to transfer money to an individual. You can only pay any fees on the USCIS online portal or Pay.gov.

Unfortunately, you may come across other scams as the methods change frequently with the times. Learning to recognize general warning signs of scams can help you stay safe.

Money Transfer Scam Red Flags

In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) dedicates to fighting money and transfer fraud. You can report fraud or scams to them if you or the people you know are the victims of any fraudulent activity.

To help avoid any troubles or even losing your money, here are several red flags to keep in mind:

  • They insist on handling everything by email or phone calls.
  • There are misspellings or serious grammar issues in communications.
  • They request money to get sent immediately. They’ll often fake an emergency for this.
  • The return email address is strange or unrecognized.
  • You receive an unexpected check.
  • The amount requested is strange or inconsistent with previous requests.
  • You don’t recognize the recipient.
  • You’re asked to use cashier’s checks, wire transfers, or other potentially untraceable funds.

Recognizing these red flags is an important way to avoid money transfer scams. Of course, you can also take several proactive measures to protect yourself.

These steps can prevent fraudsters from contacting you.

Tips to Avoid Money Transfer Scams

Make the following rules part of your permanent routine:

  • Never give out personal information on an unsolicited call or message.
  • Don’t send money to someone you don’t know personally.
  • Don’t send large sums all at once if you feel you have to send money.
  • Use reputable services—such as Remitly—that offer security protections.
  • Keep malware protection on your computer. Fraudsters may try to hack you to get personal information.
  • Avoid sellers that have low ratings or won’t provide payment options such as credit cards or other traceable methods.
  • Contact family members at known phone numbers to avoid “stranded loved one” money transfer scams.
  • Hang up and call banks or other organizations back at known numbers. Fraudsters trying to steal money or commit identity theft can fake incoming numbers.

About Remitly

Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Our safe and easy-to-use mobile app is trusted by over 5 million people around the world.

Visit the homepage or download our app to learn more.

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