We’ve all gotten the email from a long-lost relative, or poor soul in a foreign country who is in dire need of funds ASAP asking you to wire money. This is just one example of Wire Transfer Fraud but cyber criminals are getting craftier and bolder. On the rise are emails and phone calls from individuals disguised as “trusted people” from banks, credit card companies, and government institutions such as the I.R.S.
Millions of people have been taken advantage of to the tune of billions of dollars. Unfortunately, the criminal activity is on the rise, and we as consumers need to up our due diligence and awareness!
Here’s what you need to know:
While wire transfers are not typical account activity, there are occurrences where you may send one. However, you should be cautious and be on the lookout for these Wire Fraud Red Flags:
- Urgency or secrecy for sending a wire, especially on Friday. Often, the scammer will feign an emergency and insist that the transfer take place immediately. But you should resist the prodding. Make sure your bank uses verbal verification before processing a transfer.
- The sender refuses phone calls and insists on communicating via email only. Sometimes the person requesting the transfer will claim an inability to be reached now, but will promise to confirm later. You or your bank should insist on hearing directly from the person requesting funds. Another warning sign may be if the phone number they give you to contact them at does not match the customer records on file with the bank.
- Sending wire transfer to pay for vacation rental or eBay items outside normal credit card, PayPal or thru rental property website. If an eBay seller requests payment outside of PayPal, this should be a big warning sign. PayPal and eBay have a guarantee policy that protects you if a sale goes wrong. Also, be wary of rental properties who request that you wire money for a deposit and rental fees. Most of the time, the person communicating with you does not even own the property listed!
- Recipient claims they haven’t received the transfer. Sure, there could have been a glitch and the transfer didn’t go through, but NEVER send another transfer without doing any research to verify that the original wire did not arrive.
- Requests while traveling, especially while you are in a foreign country. It’s never a good idea to post your travel plans on social media, and scammers are taking advantage of those who do assuming they haven’t been in touch with family members. Scenarios may include contacting you stating a family member has been arrested and that you need to wire funds to get them released. It’s a good idea to wait until you return home to post any photos or information about your trip.
- Large dollar wire requests to high risk “scam” countries – Many of these scams start out with someone contacting you from overseas – typically China, Nigeria, Hong Kong or Russia. They will either call you or e-mail you and ask for help. Since they cannot speak English very well, they will try to get you to help them in some manner. In most cases, it will involve cashing a check or taking a credit card payment. Then you will need to wire the money to them in order to help them out. If anyone contact you from another country and asks for your help, you should examine the situation very closely.
Wire Transfer fraud has been around almost as long as the payment system itself and it shows no signs of stopping. In 2015 and 2016, there were renewed efforts to defraud consumers, businesses, and financial institutions driving losses to alarming heights. When it doubt, it’s best to share with your bank why you are making a wire transfer. Give us a call – we’d be happy to take a look and help keep you and your money safe!
Paul A. McLaughlin, Jr
Executive Vice President, Chief Retail Banking Officer