- Posted by Paul on December 25, 2014 in Banking Global Money Transfer
If you send remittances on a regular basis, it’s important to be aware of money transfer scams – what they are, how to spot them, and what you should do if you think you’ve been scammed or someone is trying to scam you. Let’s take a look at some of the most common remittance scams first, then explain how most scammers operate and the tools and techniques they typically use. Be educated and be prepared – don’t let a trickster fool you out of hard-earned money!
Common Money Transfer Scams
There are a couple of typical scam methods used when it comes to money transfer services. These include:
1. Phishing email scams, where someone tricks you into sending them money using a fake identity
2. ‘Investment’ or work from home employment scams
3. Lottery scams, where you’re told you’ve won a prize but need to send a fee to ‘release’ your winnings
4. ‘Catfishing,’ where a fake identity is used to create an online relationship
5. Loan scams, where you’re charged a ‘fee’ in order to get a too-good-to-be-true loan
This is not a complete list, but the majority of scams you may run into will fall into one of these categories.
Phishing Email Scams
Phishing is a particular type of scam where the scammer pretends to be an official authority in order to trick you into handing over sensitive information, such as your credit card details. Typical authorities scammers might try to imitate are your government, your bank, your money transfer provider, or an internationally recognised organisation like the UN or a charity. They made send you an email directing you to a website which looks identical to the official website of the organization, asking you to enter your sensitive details or transfer money immediately.
Phishing scams can be hard to spot, but a few key giveaways include things like mistakes in spelling or grammar, a more unprofessional version of an official website, or just plain strange requests (like the United Nations asking you to send $200 to a Nigerian bank account) are all giveaways. Requests coming from unfamiliar email addresses should also be ignored or reported to your email provider.
Because of phishing, most banks and transfer providers have a policy that they will never email clients requesting money out of the blue, so as long as you’re with a reputable organisation in the first place you can assume any unusual request for money you receive, no matter how official it looks, is probably a phishing attempt.
Investment scams are often used to prey on low-income people and people in debt, and the people who run them are extremely unscrupulous so it’s important to be on the watch for these sort of things. The easiest way to spot them is to apply the “too good to be true” test. If a strange person or organisation starts making you promises that they can get you rich very quickly, and they emphasise how ‘easy’ it is and how little work is involved, while also telling you there’s ‘no risk’ – it’s very probably an investment scam.
Western Unions Scams
Western Union is a money transfer service which has been a favourite of scammers for many years now. Most of the scams described in the list above originated with Western Union as the weapon of choice for scammers. Because the company is not as tight as some others when it comes to security and tracking transfers, Western Union are often preferred by scammers because there is little chance the money can be retrieved once it has been transferred.
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a scam, the first thing you should do is contact your local police force and the provider you used to send the money. The provider may be able to freeze or reverse the transfer if you notify them of fraud in time. Your local police may not be able to do much to help you if the scammer is in another country, but if the scam was local they can usually help with tracking down the scammer and potentially recovering your funds. If a particularly large sum was involved and the scam was international, it may be of interest to international authorities like Interpol – but you should contact your local police force first and allow them to determine the best course of action.
If you’ve received a phishing email but haven’t fallen for it, you can report it to your email provider – many, such as Gmail, now have a built in feature that allows you to quickly report phishing.
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