Wire Transfer Fraud

Date Posted: 
Monday, August 14, 2017

Alert Number: CA047909_8/11/17(8/18)
Updated: August 14, 2017
Originally Posted: January 16, 2013

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) urges consumers verify the identity any person they consider wiring money to. Consumers should also verify that the reason for the wire transfer is legitimate.

DFI receives many complaints from consumers who were conned into wiring money to scammers. Once a consumer sends money to a scammer, it is often impossible to find the scammer or return the money.

These scammers are located inside and outside of the United States. Recent complaints involved scammers who may be in Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Spain, and Ukraine. Consumers should more cautious when sending money to these countries.

Common scams include:

  • Utilities – A scammer tells the consumer that their utility (power, water, cable, etc.) will be shut off if they do not send money or gift cards.
  • Relative in Need – A scammer poses as a consumer’s family member, often a grandchild, and claims that they need money for an emergency.
  • Lottery or Prize – A scammer tells the consumer that the consumer won a lottery or prize and must send money to claim it.
  • Debt Collection – A scammer poses as a debt collector and uses threats to make the consumer to settle the fake debt.
  • Purchases, Sales, and Leases – A scammer tells a consumer that the consumer must send money to complete a purchase, sale, or lease.
  • Employment Related – A scanner poses as an employer, gives a consumer a fake offer of employment, and tells a consumer to send money in connection with the offer of employment.
  • Online Dating Related – A scammer poses as an online dater, contacts a consumer who is dating online, and asks for money as a gift or to help with an emergency.
  • Secret Shopper – A scammer sends a consumer a check with a letter telling the consumer to deposit a check. The scammer then tells the consumer to go to various stores and purchase items, to wire money to the scammer, and not to tell the money transmitter why they are wiring money.

Often consumers send money via money transmitters licensed by DFI, like Western Union and MoneyGram. These licensees have anti-fraud materials at each of their locations and online. DFI encourages consumers to review these materials before sending money. Below are links to some of these materials:

If consumers have any doubt about whether they may be targets of fraud, they should ask the money transmitter they using or DFI.

Report Violators

If you feel you are in immediate danger contact local law enforcement. You may also contact local law enforcement in the jurisdiction where the scammer is located to report fraud.

If you are suspicious of fraudulent activity by a money transmitter, or involving the use of a money transmitter’s services, contact the Department at 1-877-RING-DFI (746-4334), or online at www.dfi.wa.gov.

If you feel you have been the victim of a scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357), or online at www.ftc.gov. If you feel you have been the victim of a scam involving the Internet, contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

If you feel you have been the victim of a scam and are concerned about your personal financial information, contact your banking institution and the three major credit bureaus.