Money Wire Transfer Scams – Watch Out!

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I get asked about Money Wire Transfer Scams a lot. So, let’s examine how they go down and how we can avoid them.

Money transfers might be handy when you want to send money to somebody you know and trust, but they are NEVER a great idea when you are working with a stranger.

money wire transfer scamsScammers use many fancy schemes to steal your money, and a lot include money transfers using companies such as MoneyGram and Western Union. Scammers urge people to use money transfers so they can get their hands on the money before their prey even realizes they’ve been conned.

Money transfers are essentially the same as transferring cash – there are no safeguards for the sender. Usually, there is a fat chance of you reversing the transaction or even tracing the money.

Moreover, when you wire money, the receiver can obtain it at one of the countless locations. This makes it almost impossible to determine the receiver or track him/her down. In a few cases, the receiving agent working for the money transfer company might even be in partnership with the scammer!

Here are just a few money transfer scams to watch out for:

Bogus Check Scams

Somebody has sent you a check including instructions that tell you to deposit it into your bank and then wire a portion or all of the money back to them. The check is bogus, but it still looks authentic and may trick bank tellers. You might even get the cash prior to the bank finding out that it is, but it may take weeks for the bank to discover a bogus check.

Note: you are held accountable for the checks you’ve deposited, so if a check winds up being fraudulent, it’s your responsibility to pay back the bank any money you’ve withdrawn.

Here are some variations of the bogus check scam:

Sweepstakes and Lotteries

money wire transfer scamsYou just won a lottery from a foreign country! Woo! Hoo!

The letter you received says so and a cashier’s check came with it. All you’ve got to do is deposit the check into your bank and wire some money to pay for fees and taxes.


The check is likely bogus and the money you send them is gone forever.

Overpayment Scams

Somebody responds to one of your ads or posts and offers to pay for what you’re selling with a corporate check, personal check or cashier’s check.

At the last moment, the “buyer” (or his representative) comes up with a reason to make out the check for more than what you were asking for. S/he asks you to deposit the check into your bank and wire him/her back the difference.


The check is likely bogus. It may trick a bank teller at the beginning, but ultimately the check will bounce and you will have to pay the money back to the bank.

Mystery Shopping Scams

money wire transfer scamsYou’ve been hired as a mystery shopper to assess the customer service of a business.

They give you a check to deposit into your own personal bank account. Then,  you’re instructed to withdraw the money and wire it to them via a particular money transfer service. Frequently, the instructions tell you to send the cash to a person in a different country outside of the United States.


The check is likely bogus and the “mystery shopping” job too.

Here are some tips to avoid getting scammed…

Do NOT send money to a person who:

  • you’ve never met
  • claims they are a relative, and experiencing an emergency but want you to keep it a secret
  • claims a money transfer is the only option as a means of payment
  • requests you deposit a check and then wire a portion or all of the money back to them

Check out this video:



Other Types Of Money Transfer Scams

Family Emergency Scams

You receive an unforeseen phone call from somebody who claims to be a family member and needs money for an emergency ie. leave or get of jail from a foreign country or to fix a car. S/he pleads to have you wire money straightaway and to keep it a secret.

Prior to you sending the money, have a talk with your family. If you feel you can’t disregard the plea, try to confirm who the caller is by asking exclusive questions a stranger won’t be able to answer. And, keep trying to get in touch with your family to verify their story.

Rental Apartment Scams

money wire transfer scamsA few scammers will copy legit real estate or rental listings, alter the contact information and place the bogus ads on other websites. While others dream up listings for places that don’t even exist or aren’t for rent at all and try to peak your interest by offering cheap rent.

If you answer these ads, the scammers require you to wire them the first month’s rent, a security deposit or an application fee.

It’s never a great idea to wire money to somebody you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t even laid eyes on. If you can’t sign a lease before you pay, meet in person or even see the apartment – keep searching.

Advance Fee Loans

You might be tempted by websites and ads that guarantee credit cards or loans despite your credit history.  However, frequently, when you apply for the credit card or loan, you discover you’re required to pay a fee in advance.

If you must wire money for the guarantee of a credit card or loan, you’re likely working with a scammer.

Buying Online

money wire transfer scamsIf you’re purchasing something online and the seller tells you that you have to wire the money to pay for it all your internal alarms should be going off. It’s a scam and you won’t receive the item or get a refund.

Tell the seller you’d like to use an escrow service, your credit card, or a different way to pay. If the seller won’t accept your request, then find a different seller.

Paying Money To A Telemarketer

According to the Telemarketing Sales Rule, it is illegal for a telemarketer to request payment with a cash-to-cash money transfer such as those from Western Union or MoneyGram.

If a telemarketer requests that you use this means of payment, s/he is breaking the law.

The Bottom Line

I hope I’ve made you aware of just how some of these money wire transfer scams go down.  Sadly, there are many and more and more pop up every day.

If you have wired money to a scammer, call the money transfer company right away to file a complaint against them and report the fraud.

You can contact the complaint’s department at Western Union at 1-800-325-6000 or MoneyGram at 1-800-666-3947. Request to reverse the money transfer. It’s not likely to happen, but it’s vital to ask.

So, have you ever been a victim of one of the above scams?  I’d love to hear from you.  Sharing your story just may prevent someone else from being scammed.  Please leave your comments below.


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  1. williamsb

    Great information! Seems you really care about “us”.
    I don’t know that much things about scams, since now.

    Once my father was called by a person, and that person said that my grandfather was made a car accident and he is in hospital already, after gives to my father a bank account and he said that we need to transfer money on that account, for my grandfather treatments. OMG!

    So yes, these are real things, and thank you for this post!
    Keep up the good work!

    • Barb

      Hi, williamsb!  Thanks for dropping by and sharing your story.  By discussing what happened, everyone learns and becomes aware of how these scams go down.

      Yes, these scams are very real.  I’m sorry that happened to your father.  I hope he didn’t send any money.  You didn’t mention if he did or not.

      My aim is to inform as many people as possible about these scammers.  I’m glad I could help.

  2. ellie

    Thanks for the great information Barb! This is really helpful since not everyone is knowledgeable about these potential scams and almost anything money related.
    So this happens even within companies such as western union and money gram?

    Will definitely keep everything on this in mind for the future. But hopefully I wouldn’t have to worry about it

    • Barb

      Hi, Ellie!  Thanks for dropping by and sharing.  I really love hearing from my readers.

      I’m glad I was able to educate you on some of these scams.  They are quite devious.

      And, yes, scammers can even scam Western Union and MoneyGram.  Sometimes, the scammer is working with an employee at one of these companies who is receiving the money wired for the scammer.  Don’t get me wrong these are very reputable companies, but nobody can truly know a person hired no matter what kind of vetting is performed.

  3. Jack

    Excellent article. Sadly these scams have been around for years and show no signs of going away. Why? Because people still fall for them. Most of these scams are offshoots of the original 419 scam perpetrated by individuals in West Africa. They have no remorse for the people they rip off, and see it as a game. Don’t give money to anyone who contacts you out of the blue – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

    • Barb

      Thanks, Jack, for stopping by and sharing.  I really love hearing from my readers.

      You are right.  Scams, in general, are on the rise and scammers don’t care who they steal from even from those who are the most vulnerable like our seniors.  Through sharing our experiences with scammers, I hope to expose as many scams as possible and prevent people from losing their money.

      We all have to be on our toes and watch out for ourselves and others.

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