There are many situations in which you may be asked to transfer money to other people – whether it is for travel, education, family emergencies, or family support. There are a number of long-established, highly respectable money transfer services commonly used for this purpose. Like many legitimate services, however, fraudsters can use them to take advantage of unsuspecting people by getting them to transfer funds for products and services that do not exist.
As you will see from this website, there are many activities you can carry out online which, without a little care, can be compromised by fraudsters. The scams involved may take place when attempting to buy or sell goods or services, or they may play on your basic emotions such as wishing to make more money, or find romance. We have specific, detailed pages on how to spot and avoid scams, but here are some of the more common ones in which fraudsters may abuse money transfer services in an attempt to steal victims’ money:
- Advance fee / prepayment scams, when fraudsters pose as representatives from fake loan companies, use authentic-looking documents, emails, and websites to appear legitimate and charge ‘fees’ in advance of making loans, which do then not materialise.
- Inheritance scams, when fraudsters attempt to lure you with promises of investments or inheritance gifts in exchange for a fee.
- Mystery shopping scams, where you are sent a cheque and told to use the funds to ‘evaluate’ a particular money transfer service. The cheque bounces and you are responsible for refunding the money to the bank.
- Overpayment scams, where a ‘buyer’ sends you, the seller, a legitimate-looking cheque for an amount higher than the agreed price, with an explanation for the overpayment and request to transfer back the excess funds.
- Employment scams, where you are offered a ‘job’ or work-from-home opportunity that seems too good to be true. You are sent an authentic-looking cheque to cover start-up expenses and asked to transfer back the balance, or asked to pay up front for recruitment fees or pre-employment checks.
- Lottery or prize scams, where you are contacted and told that you need to send a sum of money to cover processing fees or taxes in order to claim your winnings – or where you receive an unsolicited cheque or money order with directions to deposit the money, and immediately transfer a portion back, also to cover processing fees or taxes.
- Rental property scams, where you are duped into transferring money to cover various fees and deposits for a property you wish to rent, or where as a landlord you are sent a fake cheque for the deposit, the deal is cancelled and you transfer the deposit back to the prospective ‘tenant’.
- Vehicle scams, where you are duped into transferring money as a holding deposit for a vehicle you wish to buy – or to cover ‘shipping fees’ – or where as a seller you are sent a fake cheque for the deposit, the deal is cancelled and you transfer the deposit back to the prospective ‘buyer’.
- Proof of payment scam, where you are asked by a prospective landlord or car seller to send funds to a family member/ friend as proof you have sufficient funds to rent a property or buy a car. They will request you send them a copy of your transfer form as proof, and will then collect the funds themselves using a fake ID in the stated receiver’s name.
- Emergency / grandparent scams, where fraudsters claim to be sick, to have been assaulted or wrongfully arrested and are urgently in need of money, or impersonate grandchildren of elderly people, in need of money.
- Online auction scams, when you successfully bid on an item and are told that the seller accepts payment only by money transfer service from a fictitious name, which is then used by the ‘seller’ to create a false identity to retrieve the funds. Alternatively, you may not have won the item but are contacted by someone offering you a similar deal and asked to transfer the money, for what prove to be non-existent goods.
- Romance, dating or relationship scams, when you form an online relationship with someone who is actually a fraudster and dupes you into transferring money to cover an emergency or a visit to meet in person.
Using Money Transfer Services
- Never send money to pay for’ taxes’ or ‘processing fees’ on lottery or prize winnings.
- Never use a test question as an additional security measure to protect your transaction.
- Never provide your banking information to people or businesses you do not know.
- Never send money in advance to obtain a loan or credit card.
- Never send money in advance to cover a prospective employer’s costs.
- Never send money in advance to cover any kind of deposit or fees concerning the sale or purchase or a vehicle.
- Never send money in advance to cover any kind of deposit or fees concerning the rental of a property.
- Never send money for an emergency situation without verifying that it is a genuine emergency.
- Never send funds from a cheque in your account until it officially clears—which could take weeks.
- Never send a money transfer for online purchases.
- Never open an attachment from, or click on a link in, an unsolicited email claiming to be from a money transfer service.
If you have been the victim of a scam
Call the money transfer service's country agent immediately. If you have sent the funds but they have not yet been paid to the receiver, you may be able to stop the transaction.
See Western Union’s consumer protection advice
See Moneygram’s consumer protection advice