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Wire Transfer Scams: Is it Really That Easy to Miss?

by Sally Rozumalski

It’s a day like any other at the office. An office manager receives a friendly reminder email from a company they’ve known for years about an invoice due soon. The email is light, touches on family details and a recent vacation, and then reminds the manager that paying the invoice on time is important as there is a 20 % up-charge if it’s not handled immediately.

The account representative’s name and email address look familiar and the company branding is all there, so they submit the invoice for payment, without giving it another thought. But in their rush to avoid a late fee, they don’t realize the email they just responded to is actually from ljohn@realcompony.com  instead of ljohn@realcompany.com. Just a one letter difference between a safe transaction and a very costly error!

U.S. consumers lose millions of dollars each year to experienced con artists using wire transfers as part of their scams. Western Union, Moneygram and similar businesses allow you to send money both quick and easily. They’re really useful, especially when it comes to transmitting funds for immediate use miles and even countries away. But con artists frequently try to take advantage of victims by convincing them to wire money to a stranger, or even an impostor of someone you know well!

At first this kind of con can take a whole slew of different approaches: buying a house, new investment opportunities, paying a bill etc. In every case, the scam ends the same way, you are asked to wire money. Once you do, it’s often too late as the funds are available almost immediately.

The most important thing for consumers to remember is this: triple check all information BEFORE any wire transfer of money is done.

 

Americans lost nearly $905 million to fraud last year with wire transfers taking the first place for biggest culprit. Last year, 2.7 million people filed complaints with the FTC about scams.

 

Want to avoid becoming a victim of a wire transfer scams?

Here’s a few basic rules of thumb to keep yourself safe:

  1. Don’t ever wire money to a stranger. Ever. No matter what the circumstance.
  2. Pay by credit card. That way, you’re able to report fraud if things go wrong.
  3. Pick up the phone and confirm any requests for payment method changes directly, validating the changes are legitimate before processing.
  4. Go with your gut. These scammers deal in pressure and threats. When in doubt, slow down. A quick online search or a phone call can often confirm your suspicions.

 

 What if you’ve already been the victim of a scam?

If you suspect that you’re the victim of a money transfer scam:

  1. Call your local police. File a police report for the amount you’ve been defrauded.
  2. File a complaint with the FTC. Call toll-free at 877-382-4357 or file a complaint online at ftc.gov/complaint.
  3. Contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center. This partnership of the FBI and National White-Collar Crime Center is for victims of fraud that began with Internet contact.

 

Many online seller websites like eBay have their own protocol for reporting and dealing with scammers. If you’ve wired money, you can also alert your wire transfer company of your situation so they can be ready for any future complaints. While it’s tough to admit that you might have been the victim of somebody’s wrongdoing, try not to be too hard on yourself. Wire transfer scams are on the rise because these cons are constantly evolving. By reporting it and talking openly about your experience, you’re helping others to recognize and put a stop to them.

 

If you’ve been contacted by a scammer via email don’t engage. It might be tempting to try to seek out what they want or catch them in the act, but report them instead. Keep in mind that most smart scammers have taken precautions by making themselves untraceable.

 

However, often times perpetrators are often untraceable once the scam is complete. Recent laws are beginning to provide some safeguards for those sending money internationally. Federal law now requires many banks, credit unions and money transfer services to disclose information both before and after a transfer, this includes your right to cancel within 30 minutes, assuming it hasn’t yet been picked up or deposited.

 

“These people are good at what they do because they’ve built a full-time job from scamming people out of their money” PNC bank Fraud Analyst Vickie Peck said. “If your interactions don’t feel right, do more research to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate person.”

 

When you do your homework, it can be wonderful to enjoy the fast and secure delivery that electronic transfers offer, without the mess of dealing with a phony scam artist.

 

LACyber is a division of Lincoln Archives providing comprehensive Data Breach Defense Services. Lincoln Archives and LACyber are proud to be a part of Lincoln Family of Companies serving the Western New York Community since 1914.

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