According to recent Federal Trade Commission data, U.S. consumers reported a more than 30 percent increase in monetary losses due to fraud and scams in 2022 compared to the previous year. As a consumer, you seek ways to protect yourself against scams, but scammers continue to find new twists on old tricks.
Among the most common scams today are imposter scams in which fraudsters convince their victims to send wire transfers under false pretenses. The scammer pretends to be from a government agency, tech support firm, bank or other legitimate and trusted company then tricks their victim into sharing personal information and/or sending money.
While not the only method, wire transfers have emerged as a common method used by “bad actors” in their schemes to request and receive funds from victims. A wire transfer is an immediate form of payment – it’s like handing someone cash. Scammers are using wires in their scams because they know once the victim authorizes and sends a wire payment, funds are usually transferred quickly and are rarely recoverable. Wire payments are often used for larger transactions, such as home purchases.
When it comes to ways to protect yourself against all imposter scams, vigilance and awareness are your best defense. Stay aware to stay secure to protect yourself against scams.
Tip 1: Trust and verify – verify before you trust who is contacting you and who you are sending money to.
- If you receive an unexpected text, email, or voice message requesting a payment, do not reply, click links, or call phone numbers included in that communication.
Tip 2: Don’t trust caller ID – scammers are able to “spoof” phone numbers to make it appear as if the call is coming from a trusted entity, like your bank or utility company.
- Contact the person or organization directly, using verified contact information. If it’s your bank, you can use the number on the back of your debit or credit card.
Tip 3: Don’t share personal information – never give out passwords, PIN numbers (personal identification number), or access codes.
- Your bank won’t call and ask you to share your one-time access codes, PIN numbers, passwords, or your full social security number. If you provide a scammer that information you may be giving them access to your accounts.
Tip 4: Don’t be pressured or rushed into making a transaction or wire payment. If you’re being pressured to send money immediately, it’s most likely a scam.
- Remember: Your financial institution won’t ask you to send a wire payment in order to verify an account, receive a refund, or to prevent suspected fraud.
- If you are planning to wire funds – for instance to complete a real estate or home purchase — and get a last-minute email asking you to send it to a new or unexpected account, contact the trusted recipient directly first to make sure they changed the instructions and not a scammer. Other examples that should raise a red flag include:
- If you get a call asking you to wire funds for an urgent investment—pause, think twice, and research the company and individual asking you to make the investment.
- If you get a frantic call from family member saying they are in distress or in a crisis situation and need immediate financial assistance via a wire transfer — do not wire funds to a random account. Disconnect the call and talk to other family members first to verify if the story is true.
Remember, when in doubt, wait to send it out!
For more information on spotting and avoiding scams, visit the Wells Fargo Security Center.
Author: Dan Cusick is a Wells Fargo Fraud & Claims Executive.