8 Common Money Transfer Scams and How to Avoid Them

Last updated on August 15th, 2023 at 05:20 pm

People send hundreds of billions of dollars in remittances every year. And sadly, because of this volume, certain scammers try to trick people through different money transfer scams.

Here at Remitly, we want to help you understand how these money transfer scams work and recognize the warning signs of potential fraud, so you can keep your money safe.


8 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.

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.

These are some of the most common scams we encounter here at Remitly as we work tirelessly to keep our customers’ information safe.

Please note, if you send a transfer to a scammer, we might not be able to help and you could lose your money.

Emergency Scams

In this type of scam, the victim is led to believe that they are sending funds to help a loved one or friend in an emergency situation.

Scammers exploit the victim’s natural worry for someone they care about. This can involve a car accident, being stranded at an airport, or avoiding arrest‌. The scammer may pose as the relative, friend, or loved one or as a figure of authority, such as a law enforcement official or medical doctor.

How to protect yourself:

  • Verify the emergency by contacting the loved one or friend directly
  • Do not rush the transaction, take time to verify the situation
  • Be suspicious of requests for secrecy or urgency
  • Be wary of unsolicited calls or messages from unknown individuals


Extortion Scams

An extortion scam involves the act of obtaining an individual’s property, assets, or money through threatened or actual force, violence, and intimidation. Sextortion is a type of extortion where a perpetrator threatens to expose sexually compromising information, such as sexually explicit private images or videos of the victim, unless the victim meets certain demands, usually money.

Victims tend to be younger adults or elders.

How to protect yourself:

  • Be cautious about who you connect with on social media and dating sites.
  • Do not engage in explicit video chat or exchange sexually explicit images with strangers.
  • Do not send money to someone who is threatening to expose intimate photos or videos.
  • Be wary of false communication from law enforcement officials.


 How to Keep Your Funds Safe from Scammers

Threats/Blackmail Scams

Threats/blackmail scams involve scammers unlawfully obtaining money from a victim through coercion. The scammer threatens to harm the victim if they do not cooperate.

The scammer may relate personal information in the email or call to add intimidation. They may threaten physical harm, claim to know where you live or work, and threaten to hurt you or your loved ones unless you pay up. Scammers may also threaten the victim with arrest or jail time if they do not comply with the demands.

How to protect yourself:

  • Do not comply with the scammer’s demands
  • Contact law enforcement immediately if you feel threatened or scared
  • Be wary of unsolicited calls or messages from unknown individuals
  • Be cautious about sharing personal information online or in response to unsolicited calls or messages


Imposter Scams

In an imposter scam, a scammer poses as an authoritative individual and requests money to sort out a false situation. Scammers may also pose as representatives from a reputable business (business impersonators) and make false claims of fraudulent charges that need to be reviewed, refunds, overpayment in order to steal from the victim.

They make false claims about fraudulent charges, refunds, shipment issues, or other bogus fees that will cause the victim to share personal and/or financial information. Scammers may even hack the customer’s phone in order to process unauthorized transactions.

How to protect yourself:

  • Be cautious about sharing personal information online or in response to unsolicited calls or messages
  • Verify the legitimacy of the representative or business
  • Do not share financial information over the phone or email
  • Do not trust unsolicited communication from unknown individuals or businesses


Investment Scams

Investment scams often sound “too good to be true” or offer “risk-free” investment opportunities. They pressure victims to invest immediately, sometimes indicating the opportunity is for a limited time.

The victim is often lured through social media apps or cold calls/email inquiries.

How to protect yourself:

  • Be cautious of investment opportunities that sound too good to be true or pressure you to invest immediately.
  • Do your research and verify the legitimacy of the investment before investing any money.
  • Do not invest money you cannot afford to lose.


Romance Scams

In a romance scam, the victim is tricked into thinking they’ve found true love online. Scammers play with your emotions, pretending to be interested in a romantic relationship. They use flattering words and stolen pictures to win trust and affection.

Once they have the victim hooked, they ask for money. They might claim it’s for a plane ticket to meet up, or to cover unexpected medical expenses. They prey on the desire for love and companionship, making it hard to say no.

How to protect yourself:

  • Verify the person’s identity by doing a reverse image search or asking for a video call.
  • Be suspicious of requests for secrecy or urgency, as scammers often use these tactics.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited messages or calls from strangers professing love or interest.


Tech Support Scams

Tech support scams involve scammers posing as representatives from reputable companies like Microsoft or Apple and claiming that the victim’s computer requires tech services in order to gain access remotely and steal from the customer.

Typically, victims receive an unsolicited phone call, text message, or email from an individual claiming to represent a company’s “Tech Support,” “Help Desk,” “IT Department,” or a similar office.

How to protect yourself:

  • Remember that reputable companies will never contact you out of the blue and ask for access to your computer.
  • Never provide personal or financial information to unsolicited callers or email senders.
  • Independently verify the legitimacy of any request for tech support services.

woman's reaction to money transfer scams

8. 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 give out personal financial information.

How to protect yourself:

  • Remember that the USCIS, and 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.
  • Don’t provide any personal or financial information to people you don’t trust.
  • Be sure to contact USCIS directly if you need help with any immigration processes.

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.

Common Signs of an Online Scam

Not sure whether something is a scam? Watch out for these red flags:

  • They insist on handling everything by email or text.
  • There are misspellings or serious grammar issues in communications.
  • They request money immediately.
  • The return email address is strange or unrecognized.
  • You’re asked to use cashier’s checks, wire transfers, or other potentially untraceable funds.


Staying Safe from Money Transfer Scams

Follow these steps to safeguard your money and your information.

  • Never give out personal information on an unsolicited call or message.
  • Don’t send money to someone you don’t know personally.
  • Contact family members at known phone numbers if you receive an unfamiliar request from them.
  • Regularly update your passwords.
  • Do not share your login information for Remitly or other financial apps.

protect yourself from money transfer scams

About Remitly

Remitly is on a mission to make international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Since 2011, millions of people have used Remitly to send money with peace of mind. Visit the homepagedownload our app, or check out our Help Center to get started.

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