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Five tips to help avoid wire transfer fraud

Wire transfers are a fast and easy way to send money from your account to individuals and businesses. 

You may wish to use a wire transfer to pay a large invoice, send money to a family member, or to complete a real estate transaction. However, because wire transfer payments are typically irreversible — they can also be the target of fraud schemes.

These five steps can help you stay safe.

Tip 1: Remember that wire transfers are like sending cash.

Wire transfers are used to send money electronically from one bank account to another.

Sending money this way is like sending cash in that, once sent, the wire transfer typically cannot be reversed. Wired funds are considered the property of the recipient and wire transfers may be final.

For this reason, wire transfers can be a preferred payment method for fraudsters.

Tip 2: Know the scam warning signs.

Unexpected wire transfer requests: Always be cautious if you receive an unexpected appeal for a money transfer. Do not take any action without carefully verifying that the request is legitimate. 

Investment scams: Be wary of unscrupulous offers that guarantee returns or promise “no risk” on investments in cryptocurrency, gold, or foreign real estate. Be extra cautious with money transfers to foreign countries.

Last-minute changes to real estate wire instructions: Homebuyers in the process of closing on a property can be a target. Scammers may impersonate the real estate agent, mortgage broker, or escrow agent and change the wiring instructions at the last minute to steal closing cash or a down payment. 

Bogus “problems” or account issues: Never wire funds to fix a supposed account problem. Remember that Wells Fargo and other legitimate financial institutions will never ask you to send a wire to resolve an account issue. 

Overpayment schemes: If you receive a check followed by a demand to wire back excess funds, it is likely that the check is bogus, and the request is a scam.

Romance scams: A scammer may expertly pretend to be your perfect match. They can’t wait to meet you “in the future,” but they need your financial assistance first.

Tip 3: Don’t be rushed.

Go slow and be prudent with all unexpected communications. 

Scammers often employ tactics like impersonating legitimate institutions or individuals to trick you into making wire transfers. They may even use caller ID so that their phone calls appear to be coming from a legitimate source. 

Always verify the authenticity of such requests before taking any action.

And if you’re being asked to act immediately — do the opposite. 

Hang up, ignore the message, and take the time you need to contact the organization directly to verify that it’s legitimate.  

Tip 4: Always double-check the intended recipient.

Because wire transfers are typically irreversible, if you make a mistake or if you are tricked, you may not be able to get your money back. 

Even when you have a legitimate reason for sending a wire transfer, it pays to use wire transfers carefully.  

For example, when using a wire transfer to complete a real estate or business transaction, confirming your intended recipient is especially important. 

Before wiring money, confirm the instructions with your mortgage consultant, title company, or business partner by calling their official, published phone number.   Do not call a new number or respond to an unexpected email that contains new wire instructions.  

Tip 5: When in doubt, stop and get help.

If at any point you find yourself unsure or suspicious about a wire transfer request, stop and ask for assistance. 

Consult with your bank or another trusted financial advisor to validate the legitimacy of the request.

Taking this one important step can prevent very costly mistakes.

If you believe you’ve fallen victim to a wire transfer scam that involves your Wells Fargo account, contact us immediately.