Wire transfers can be a convenient way to send and receive money. That's why scammers find them so attractive.

Never Wire Money to Someone You Don't Know

This is our main advice when it comes to wiring money. If you don't know the person you're sending the money to — or if you haven't known them very long — simply don't it. If you've sent money to a scammer by mistake, there's a good chance the money will be gone for good. 

Signs of a Wire Transfer Scam

You're Unexpectedly Asked to Wire Money

Be cautious before wiring money—even if you're asked by the government, a good friend, or relative. 

Calls from the IRS, for example, are often scams. Fake IRS representatives will threaten you with arrest or other consequences if you don't pay up. If you think you might owe money to a government agency, contact them separately to confirm. Otherwise, just hang up! 

Your relatives can even be used as part of a scam. Scammers are very skilled at fooling people into thinking their own relatives are asking for money. They might call you from a familiar phone number and disguise their voice, claiming to be crying or sick. They may email you from a familiar email address/name. They might seem credible because they know details about your family that they have learned from the Internet. 

If you have any doubt, make sure you contact a relative separately to confirm the story. Don't listen to pleas to "not tell anyone." Remember, they are asking for your hard-earned money! Stop and think before you act. 

You're Sent a Check in Exchange for a Return Payment

Scammers will sometimes send a fake check — cashier's check, personal check, money order, etc. — and ask you to cash it and then send them the money. 

Sometimes, they will say you have won a prize or the lottery, have earned an inheritance, can work from home, or can become a "secret shopper." Other times, you will receive a check as payment to something you were selling online. Either way, the check will be for more than what they're asking in return. They'll say this is for processing fees and your time/effort or that the extra payment was a mistake that they need refunded immediately. 

Beware! The check is a fake. Don't attempt to cash it. Immediately cut off communication. 

You're Asked for a Confirmation Code Before Withdrawing Funds

This is fake. You never need a confirmation code or money transfer control number (MTCN) to pick up wired money. If someone requests this info, you're being scammed.

You're Asked to Wire Money to Another Country

Typing or grammar errors are a common sign of foreign scammers attempting to get you to send them money. Learn more about other money transfer scams on the Federal Trade Commission website.

American scammers will also sometimes ask you to send money overseas. They'll have a convincing reason for their request—e.g., a grandchild is on vacation, etc. But there's almost no good reason to wire money overseas without confirming the story first.