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Safety tips for online payments and wire transfers

Learn how to spot common financial scams

Online payments and wire transfers are fast, easy ways to send money to individuals and businesses. However, because these types of payments are immediate – and typically irreversible – they are also frequently used in fraud schemes.

To help protect yourself from online payment scams and wire transfer fraud, here's what to look for:

Scam #1: Online payment scams

Wells Fargo offers Zelle® as a convenient way to send and receive money from friends, family and other people you know and trust. You can send money to almost anyone with an eligible U.S.-based bank account using their email address or U.S. mobile phone number. 

Important: Wells Fargo will not ask you to send a Zelle® payment to yourself, your bank (including Wells Fargo), or anyone else. Wells Fargo will never ask for your login, password, one-time access codes, or authentication information.

If someone claiming to be from Wells Fargo asks for this information, do not respond. Scammers may even appear that they are calling from a Wells Fargo number. When in doubt, call us immediately.

We recommend you only send money to known and trusted recipients when using Zelle®.

Zelle® is similar to using cash in that you cannot cancel the payment if your recipient has already enrolled. Neither Wells Fargo nor Zelle® offers a protection program for any authorized payments made with Zelle® – for example, if you do not receive the item you paid for, or the item is not as described or as you expected, you will likely lose your money.

Scam #2: Real estate wire scams

Real estate wire scams occur when a person who is buying or refinancing a home wires money to a scammer's account based on false wiring instructions received in an email.

To help avoid this scam:

  • Know what to expect before closing on a loan by confirming the process with your lender. If you receive a last-minute change or urgent request to wire money to avoid losing the property, contact your mortgage consultant.
  • Before wiring money, confirm instructions with your mortgage consultant or title company by calling a phone number you trust. Do not call a new number or respond to an email with new instructions.
Learn more about real estate wire scams.
 

Scam #3: Tech support scams

Tech support scams happen when someone contacts you claiming to be from a well-known technology company and requests remote access to your computer.

Sometimes the caller says they have identified a problem and offers to fix your computer for a fee. If you give them access, they may install malicious software to steal your personal or financial information. 

Other times, the scammer offers a "refund" for a discontinued service or an accidental overcharge. If you give them access to your online banking, they will make it appear as if they're sending you a refund, but they're actually transferring money from your own accounts. Often, the refund is for much more than promised (e.g., $40,000 instead of $400), so the scammer makes a plea for you to send the extra money back so they don't lose their job. They may ask you to wire money to a foreign country, purchase gift cards, or mail cash.

To help avoid this scam:

  • Never give control of your computer to anyone who contacts you. If you receive a call about a computer problem, hang up. If you suspect something is wrong with your computer or believe the scammer obtained access to it, bring it to a reputable company for a malware check.
  • Don't trust phone numbers provided to you in an email, voicemail, or pop-up ad. If you want to call the company, use the customer service number on their official website. Note: Scammers sometimes purchase ads and create fake customer service websites that will show up on search results.
  • If you are asked to wire money from a recent deposit or overpayment, discuss the situation with a banker or trusted friend or family member. Be truthful about the situation, since many scammers direct you to lie about why you're sending the money.
  • Review your account activity to spot signs of fraud, such as an online transfer from your own savings, credit card, or home equity line of credit. If you're unsure of the descriptions used for a transaction, ask a banker to help since many scammers will add a memo to make the transfer appear legitimate. 
Learn more about tech support scams.
 

Scam #4: Online shopping scams

Online shopping scams can be difficult to spot because scammers often create realistic websites and social media ads with great deals, fake assurances, and bogus warranties for their products. Typically, the scammer requests payment through a mobile payment app or wire transfer because they are usually irreversible. If you use a payment app or wire money to the scammer, you'll never receive the product and likely not get your money back.

To help avoid this scam:

  • Know that anyone can set up a realistic website and social media ad. Scammers will sometimes purchase ads to direct you to their website, so research the seller or product before you buy.
  • Watch out for deals that are too good to be true. A deep discount could be the sign of a scammer trying to lure you in, only to tack on additional fees once you make the first payment.
  • Don't pay for online products with a wire transfer or mobile payment app. Use a credit card, when you can.

Learn more about online shopping scams.

More financial scams to watch out for:

  • Foreign business or investment scam: You're approached with an offer to fund a lucrative investment or business opportunity, usually in another country. You're directed to act quickly and keep the deal a secret, especially if questioned by your bank when sending the wire.
  • Family emergency or grandparent scam: You receive an urgent call or email from someone claiming to be a friend or family member who needs money for an emergency. To appear legitimate, they may provide details (pulled from social media) about your friend or relative in need.
  • Romance scam: You meet someone, typically through an online app or social media site, and begin a relationship. Your online interest starts professing their love for you and then begins to ask for money to help with costs such as medical bills or travel expenses to visit you.
  • Cryptocurrency scams: Be extremely wary of anyone offering to deal with payments in cryptocurrency. In many cases, there are no safeguards in place when these products are used for payment.

If you're a victim of a wire transfer or an online payment scam, report it to your bank immediately. You can also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Learn more about scam and fraud prevention at the Wells Fargo Security Center.

  Tip  

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

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