Understanding and avoiding wire transfer scams

Gabriela Peratello

Sending your money by wire transfer is quick and convenient – but you need to stay vigilant against scams!

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about wire transfer fraud, including tips and tricks to avoid common wire transfer scams.

We’ll also take a look at Wise as a safe and secure way to transfer your money across the world.


What is a wire transfer scam?

A wire transfer scam is a type of bank fraud that involves electronic communication, rather than a face-to-face bank transfer.

By sending your money electronically, it can be easier for scammers to encourage you to make a fraudulent transfer. A scammer may get access to your bank details or they may ask you for money under false pretenses.

Types of wire transfer scams

Let’s take a look at some common wire transfer scams, including how to spot the signs of online fraud.

1. Unexpected Requests for Money

Getting an unexpected request for money online could be a sign of a wire transfer scam. This typically involves an email, message, or phone call asking for funds – and it can come from an unknown sender, or someone close to you.

Even if you know the person requesting money, don’t transfer large sums until you’ve spoken to them face-to-face, as a scammer may have hacked into their account to send a fake money request.

You may also get a call from a government agency asking for money, such as the IRS. It’s unlikely for a government agency to call you – and more often than not, unexpected calls asking for money are fraudulent.

2. Fake check scam

A scammer may send you a fake check, asking you to deposit it and wire some of the money to another sender. Typically, you’ll find that your bank can’t clear the check – and you end up responsible for the debt.

This common wire transfer scam can come under many guises. For example, a scammer may offer you a job and send you a check in exchange for new office supplies.

3. Requests for confirmation codes

In some cases, a scammer may ask for a confirmation code or money transfer control number (MTCN) to pick up a wire transfer. You don’t need this information to pick up funds from a wire transfer, so this is a sign of fraud.¹

4. International wire transfer requests

Many wire transfer scams may ask you to make a transfer abroad. For example, you may receive an email asking for funds to help a government official overseas, or you may hear from a relative who needs money to get home.

If you receive a sudden international wire transfer request, make sure to confirm it’s real before sending your money.

Tips and tricks to recognize potential scams

There are a few ways to spot potential wire transfer scams. Always take time to think before you send your money, as scammers will push you to make a quick decision you may regret.

Look out for red flags like:
  • Spelling and grammar errors in any communication

  • Refusal to speak on the phone or face-to-face before you send money

  • Receiving a check in exchange for a return payment

  • An urgent, unexpected, or sudden request for money

Stay vigilant to avoid wire transfer scams and keep your money safe.

Preventing wire transfer scams

There are a few ways to prevent wire transfer scams. You should ignore calls from unknown numbers and always speak to someone face-to-face before sending money. Don’t cash checks to send wire transfers to someone you don’t know.

Above all, don’t let anyone rush you into making a decision. Take a step back before sending your money, even to a loved one.

Steps to take if you're a victim

Let’s take a look at some key steps to follow if you think you’ve fallen victim to wire transfer fraud.

Step 1. Contact your bank or money service. Your bank can freeze your accounts to stop any further fraudulent activity

Step 2. Next, file a police report. The police may be able to help you recover your funds or investigate the scam

Step 3. Finally, it’s a good idea to report your scam to the appropriate authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).² This can prevent someone else from falling victim to the same scam

International wire fraud - a growing concern

With many people moving their accounts and transactions online, international wire fraud is a growing concern across the world.

Although sending a wire transfer is typically very safe, it’s important to know exactly where you’re sending your money.

In some cases, it may be impossible to verify your recipient face-to-face, particularly when sending your money overseas. Scammers take advantage of this situation, sending fake international requests for money.

You can prevent international wire fraud by choosing a global transfer service you can trust.

International transfers at the tip of your fingers: meet Wise

With Wise you can:
  • Send money abroad with the mid-market exchange rate and low fees

  • Get paid like a local in 9 different currencies

  • Spend in over 150 countries with the Wise card

  • Hold and manage +40 currencies at the tip of your fingers

  • Opt in to receive annual percentage yield (APY) on your USD balance with Wise’s interest feature (subject to change, certain limitations apply — see Program Agreement for more information)

Learn more about Wise

Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

Safety tips for wire transfers

Make sure to verify your recipient’s details before sending a wire transfer. Once you send your money, you may not be able to get it back – so always ensure it’s going to the right person.

Choose a wire transfer service with a high level of security. This may include features like two-factor authentication. A money transfer service like Wise can help you look after your money, with an in-house team that specializes in cutting-edge financial security.

If you get an unsolicited request for money from a friend, double-check with that person face-to-face before sending your money. Never send money to a stranger by wire transfer.

By choosing the right transfer service, you can contact customer support for help with any suspicious requests.

Wire transfer scams FAQ

What is wire transfer fraud?

Wire transfer fraud is any fraudulent activity that occurs through electronic communication.

Typically, wire transfer scams involve an unexpected request for money online from a stranger or someone close to you. You may also receive a fake check in exchange for a return payment.

How can I protect myself from wire transfer scams?

Always take a step back before sending your money, especially if you’re unsure. If you receive a request for money from someone you know, make sure to speak to them face-to-face before transferring funds.

What should I do if I've been scammed through a wire transfer?

You should contact your bank or money transfer service as soon as possible. You should also get in touch with the FTC to make sure the same scam doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Are wire transfer scams common?

Wire transfers are typically secure. However, wire transfer scams are common if you’re not vigilant, and these scams often come in the form of fake requests for money.

What are the signs of a romance scam involving wire transfers?

A romance scam involves a request for money from someone who has gained your trust through a dating app or social media platform.

Romance scammers won’t agree to meet you in person. They’ll tell you exactly how to pay them and they may want you to give them PIN codes or cryptocurrency.

Sending your money by wire transfer is simple and convenient – but it comes with risks. It’s important to spot the signs of common wire transfer scams and understand how to prevent them from happening to you.

To start transferring your money in safety, check out Wise.


  1. Texas Attorney General
  2. Consumer FTC

Sources checked on 02.02.2024

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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