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Safety tips for wire transfers

Take steps to protect yourself from these three common wire transfer scams

Wire transfers are a fast, easy way to transmit money among individuals and businesses. However, because of their speed and permanence, they are also frequent targets for fraud. According to FBI statistics, roughly $2.3 billion was lost to wire transfer fraud between October 2013 and February 2016.

To help protect yourself from wire transfer fraud, be aware of these three common scam types.

Scam #1: Phishing scams

Phishing is an attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and account details by posing as a reputable company via email, text message, phone call, or social media. Once scammers obtain that information, they use your personal and financial information to access your account and steal money.

Scammers may hope to convince you to reveal personal information by using compelling language, such as a need to communicate with you for your own safety or account security.

To help avoid this scam:

  • Don’t click on links, open attachments, or provide sensitive information through a suspicious email or text message, even if the sender claims to be a reputable company.
  • Keep security patches and anti-virus programs up to date on your computer and mobile devices.
  • Turn off your mobile device’s setting to auto-download attachments.

Scam #2: Family emergency scams

In this scam, you will receive a telephone call or email from a scammer claiming to be a friend or family member in need of money for an emergency. The person may seem legitimate because they have specific personal information, such as details about friends and family. This scam preys on people’s emotions to convince you to immediately initiate a wire transfer.

To help avoid this scam:

  • Be cautious about sending money to friends and family until you have verified their identity and confirmed that the request is legitimate.
  • Hang up if you feel uncomfortable, particularly about a call you didn’t initiate.
  • Contact your friend or family member directly to confirm the caller’s story.

Scam #3: IRS fraud scams

Imposter scams that may lead to tax fraud and identity theft increase during tax season. These scams can take many forms, such as fake IRS tax notices and fraudulent phone calls. In one scenario, scammers impersonating IRS agents call to claim you owe taxes or are due a refund.

To help avoid this scam, familiarize yourself with IRS standards of tax collection:

  • The IRS initiates communication via mail, not email, text messages, or social media channels.
  • The IRS does not demand that you pay taxes without letting you appeal the amount in question.
  • The IRS does not require you to pay via wire transfer or any specific payment method.
  • The IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment, or other enforcement action.
  • The IRS uses a standard set of account instructions for wire transfers, using the routing number #091036164 with the name “US TREAS SINGLE TX.” If you see a different account information, contact the IRS for more information and verification.

To review your tax standing, visit the IRS website.

General tips for wire transfer safety

A wire transfer is an immediate form of payment. Once a scammer has obtained the funds you wired in exchange for a check, the wire transfer cannot be reversed, even if the check is fraudulent.

For that reason, it’s essential to take steps to reduce your risk of fraud by knowing best practices for wire transfers:

  • Do not send funds to an individual or business you don’t know personally.
  • Be wary of schemes claiming your payment will allegedly cover a loved one’s expenses, lottery winning fees, and other scenarios.
  • Situations where you’re requested to deposit a check and send a portion back under the pretense that the extra money is commission or overpayment are often fraudulent. If the check bounces, you may be responsible for the amount.
  • Check the information you include on a wire transfer. One typo could send the money to the wrong person or business.

Take steps to protect yourself and your funds when conducting wire transfers. If you suspect fraudulent activity, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Learn more about fraud prevention at our Fraud Information Center.

 Tip 

Keep security patches and anti-virus programs up to date on your computer and mobile devices.

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