Money Transfer Scams — October 2011, reviewed January 2013

Wiring money is like sending cash.  Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.  That’s one reason scammers often insist that people wire money, especially to addresses overseas.  It’s nearly impossible to reverse the transfer, trace the money, or track the recipients.

Money transfers can be useful if you want to send money to someone you know and trust.  The recipient of a money transfer gets the money quickly, but again remember it is nearly impossible to reverse the transfer if you realize you’ve made a mistake.

Don’t wire money to a stranger or someone you haven’t met in person.  That includes:

A variation of this scam is when someone asks you to deposit a check for them, and then wire money back to them.  The scam is that the check is a fake.  It will bounce and you’ll owe your bank the money you withdrew.  It can take weeks to uncover a fake check.

If you think you’ve wired money to a scam artist, contact the money transfer company immediately to report the fraud and file a complaint.  Ask for the money transfer to be reversed.  It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s important to ask.  Then file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. 

Web links for more detailed information: Federal Trade Commission http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt034.shtm

Minnesota Attorney General’s Office http://www.ag.state.mn.us/Consumer/Publications/SecretShopper.asp