Most common frauds
Never wire money to someone you don't know. Never.
Almost all wire fraud starts with contact from a stranger. Protect yourself from wire transfer fraud.
Move your cursor over the photos below to learn more about the most common frauds.
The relative in need scam: You get a call from someone pretending to be a family member or relative, like a grandchild, who’s in trouble. Or, the caller pretends to be a lawyer or police officer who is with your family member. They may say the family member needs money to be bailed out of jail, or to pay a fine or for emergency car repair or medical care. If you’re not sure that this call is really from a family member, don’t fall for this fraud.
The lottery or sweepstakes scam: You receive an official-looking notice by mail or email saying you’ve won a large sum of money, possibly even including a check. To claim your valuable prize, you are asked to deposit the check and send a money transfer to cover taxes and processing fees. Be aware: if you don’t remember entering a lottery, you didn’t win. And never send money to receive money. No legitimate lottery or sweepstakes asks for money up front.
The check or money order scam: Someone sends you a check or money order, maybe for something you’re selling through a classified ad or online, maybe as advance payment for a job you think you’re getting. The amount is more than it should be. The scammer tells you to cash or deposit the check or money order at a bank, then wire the amount they’ve “overpaid” back to them. The check/money order turns out to be counterfeit, and you can’t get back the “extra” money you sent by wire transfer.
The mystery shopper scam: You get hired to be a mystery shopper. Your first task: evaluate the customer service of a retail store. You’re given a check to cash and use for purchases in the store, yet the amount of the check is more than it should be. The scammer tells you to wire back the amount they’ve overpaid. The original check was counterfeit, and you can’t get back the money you sent by wire transfer, so you lose both amounts.
The internet romance scam: You become emotionally involved with someone you’ve been communicating with on an Internet dating site. Your love interest tells you he/she is moving out of the country for work or wants to fly to your city to meet you, and asks you to wire money to help. If you fall for it, you’ll receive more excuses and requests for more money, until you realize you’ve been scammed.
The charity scam: After a natural disaster – such as a flood, tornado, or a national tragedy – charitable giving fraud typically spikes. Scammers use these situations and move quickly to create fraudulent "charitable" organizations to prey on well-intentioned people who want to help. You may receive a letter, phone call or online request to help the victims by sending money through a wire transfer. Never transfer money to people or organizations you don’t know. If you want to make a donation, give it through a trusted organization where you understand how the funds are being collected and used. If a charity asks for a donation by money transfer, it's likely a scam. Once a donation is sent by money transfer, the scam is complete and your money never goes to the intended cause.
The vehicle purchase scam: You find a great deal for a car online or in an advertisement. You contact the seller, who tells you to send the down payment through a money transfer, so you can avoid sales tax. He or she may even send you a “receipt” saying you’ve bought the vehicle. Do not send a down payment through wire transfer. You won’t get the vehicle and you won’t get back the money you wire.
The internet purchases scam: You’re shopping online and find something you want at a price that seems too good to be true. It may be anything - a puppy, a car, or even an apartment to rent. It could be a place to stay on your vacation. For example, you may see what appears to be a great deal for a timeshare or vacation package. The scammer will ask you to pay with a money transfer or send a deposit to an individual or fake business, and you may even get a letter or email with a receipt. But you later find out the timeshare doesn't exist or the vacation package has been grossly misrepresented. Do not wire money for Internet purchases. You won’t get the merchandise or rental, and you’ll lose your money.
The fake loan scam: You receive an email or a letter from a fake loan company, offering to loan you money. All you need to do is send them money through a wire transfer to pay for loan fees, taxes, service fees, or advance payments. Never send money to a loan company to get a loan. It doesn’t work this way. You will not get the loan, and you will lose the money you wire.
The newspaper ads scam: You see something you’d like to buy in a classified or other ad in a newspaper. You’re asked to pay for it through a money transfer. The price seems too good to be true. It is. Never use a money transfer to purchase an item from a stranger. You may never get the item, and you’ll lose all the money you send.
The elder abuse scam: A stranger begins a close relationship with you and offers to manage your finances and assets. Or, signatures on documents do not resemble your own signature. Don't get duped into parting with your money through financial abuse scams. Scammers will try to manipulate you into turning over property and/or money, and this can leave your cash, checking account or even life savings completely wiped out in one transaction. Financial abuse scams can take many forms, including telemarketing fraud, identity theft, predatory lending, and home improvement and estate planning scams. Never trust your money to anyone you don't know.