How to Recognize and Avoid Wire Transfer Scams

Protect Yourself From Scammers

Wire transfers offer a fast, convenient way to move money, but their speed and finality also make them a prime target for scammers. Recent reports indicate a surge in wire transfer fraud, especially within real estate transactions. Knowing how these scams work and how to protect yourself is essential in preventing financial loss. Here’s a comprehensive guide on common wire transfer scams and the best practices to avoid falling victim to them.

Common Wire Transfer Scams

1. Real Estate Wire Scams

Recent Trends: Authorities have reported a rise in real estate wire scams, particularly involving email compromise during the closing process of new homes. These scams can involve six-figure sums, making them highly lucrative for cybercriminals. The scams typically spoof sender addresses to appear as real estate agents or closing agents, directing homebuyers to wire funds to fraudulent accounts. Along with the stolen funds, scammers often acquire personal information from these transactions.

How They Work:

  • Scammers hack or spoof email accounts of real estate professionals.
  • They send emails with last-minute changes to wiring instructions.
  • The fraudulent emails include instructions to wire closing costs to a new account controlled by the scammer.

Red Flags:

  • Unexpected changes in wiring instructions close to the transaction date.
  • Urgent requests to transfer funds immediately to avoid deal complications.
  • Emails containing phone numbers that differ from known contact numbers.

Protection Tips:

  • Confirm wiring details by calling your mortgage consultant or title representative using trusted numbers from official websites.
  • Treat any last-minute changes as suspicious and verify them directly with the involved parties.
  • Avoid using phone numbers or contact details provided in potentially fraudulent emails; instead, use known, verified sources.

Action Steps if Victimized:

  • Contact your financial institution immediately to request a wire recall. However, Wire transfer reversals can be difficult and may not always be possible.
  • Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
  • Monitor your accounts for unauthorized transactions and follow up with your bank on the status of the wire recall.

2. Tech Support Scams

How They Work: Scammers pose as tech support from reputable companies, contacting victims to claim there’s an issue with their computer. They request remote access to fix the problem or offer refunds for supposed overcharges. Once access is granted, they install malware, steal personal information, or request wire transfers for fees.

Red Flags:

  • Unsolicited calls or pop-ups about computer issues.
  • Requests for remote access or personal banking information.
  • Demands to wire money or pay for services unexpectedly.

Protection Tips:

  • Never allow remote access to your computer from unsolicited callers.
  • Verify claims by contacting the company directly through their official customer service number.
  • Disconnect and scan your computer for malware if you suspect fraud.

3. Online Shopping Scams

How They Work: Scammers create convincing websites or ads offering products at unrealistically low prices. They request payment via wire transfer or mobile payment apps, leaving victims without the purchased items and unable to recover their funds.

Red Flags:

  • Deals that are significantly below market value.
  • Payment requests through wire transfer or mobile apps rather than credit cards.

Protection Tips:

  • Research sellers and products before making a purchase.
  • Use credit cards for online transactions to benefit from fraud protection.
  • Verify the legitimacy of websites and ads through independent reviews and trusted sources.

4. Fake Check Scams

How They Work: Victims receive checks and are instructed to deposit them, then wire money back to the sender. The checks eventually bounce, and the victim is left liable for the funds withdrawn.

Red Flags:

  • Instructions to wire money from deposited checks.
  • Overpayments with requests to return the excess funds.

Protection Tips:

  • Be wary of unsolicited checks and verify their authenticity before making any financial moves.
  • Consult your bank if you receive a suspicious check and avoid wiring money until the check has fully cleared.

5. Romance Scams

How They Work: Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites or social media, building trust before requesting money for emergencies or travel. They often ask for wire transfers or other hard-to-trace payment methods.

Red Flags:

  • Financial requests from someone you’ve only met online.
  • Urgent stories about emergencies requiring financial help.

Protection Tips:

  • Avoid sending money to individuals you haven’t met in person.
  • Be cautious of online relationships that quickly lead to financial solicitations.

6. Family Emergency Scams

How They Work: Scammers impersonate family members or friends in distress and request immediate financial assistance via wire transfer. They use personal details from social media to make their stories more credible.

Red Flags:

  • Unexpected urgent requests for money.
  • Appeals to wire funds for supposed emergencies.

Protection Tips:

  • Verify the caller’s identity by asking questions only your real contact would know.
  • Contact the person through another method before sending money.

Reporting Fraud and Recovering Funds

If you’ve fallen victim to a wire transfer scam, take the following steps:

  1. Contact Your Financial Institution: Request a wire recall immediately and report the fraud.
  2. Notify Authorities: Report the scam to the FTC and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
  3. Monitor Accounts: Keep a close watch on your financial accounts for signs of further fraud.

Additional Resources

For further information on wire transfer scams and preventive measures, visit the FTC’s Consumer Information page.

Staying informed and vigilant is crucial in protecting yourself from wire transfer fraud. By following these guidelines, you can minimize the risk and ensure your financial security.


  • Federal Trade Commission, Before You Wire Money
  • Financial Institutions and Credit Unions, Wire Transfer Fraud Prevention Guidelines