Historically wire fraud schemes relied on the telephone, with scammers limited by the number of calls they could place to try to hook their victims. Today, with the proliferation of the internet, fraudsters can reach many more people through social media with their fake stories of loss, love, and instant wealth.
The definition of wire fraud today is quite broad. According to the U.S. Department of Justice wire fraud statutes, these elements define wire fraud:
This means a scammer could contact you through email, text message, or phone to commit wire fraud.
The best way to prevent yourself from falling victim to wire fraud is to make yourself aware of the red flags and constantly be on alert for scams. Here are some indicators you may be dealing with a scammer:
Considering that the definition of wire fraud scams is relatively broad, many types of scams fall into this category. Most scams that involve the internet, email, phone calls, or text messages and the loss of money are wire fraud scams.
The most common type of wire fraud scam is phishing. In these scams, a scammer masquerading as a government official, tech support technician, or another person, contacts you by email, text message, or phone call.
They will commonly impersonate a government official or well-known brand and ask you for sensitive information, such as your bank account details and Social Security number (SSN). They will then use this information to steal your identity.
Money transfer scams have been around for years. Possibly the most common version of this is the Nigerian prince scam, where the scammer poses as a Nigerian prince. But since people know to be on the lookout for "Nigerian princes" offering them money by now, scammers have since masqueraded as different characters.
The gist of the scam goes like this. The scammer claims to have a large sum of money they cannot access without your financial help to "release" the money. If you transfer the money, the scammer will say you will get a percentage of the money for your help, but that never happens, and the scammer takes off with your money.
In a lottery or prize scam, you will receive an email claiming that you won the lottery, sweepstakes, or other contest. To claim your winnings, you will first have to pay a fee. Unfortunately, the contest isn't real, and the scammer will take your money and disappear.
In an investment scam, the scammer will claim they have an amazing investment opportunity that will double, triple, or quadruple your money. The investment could be stocks, bonds, real estate, cryptocurrency, or several other investment types. These scams are even common on Cash App, where scammers promise to "flip your money."
The scammer may give you fake information about a real investment to make it look better or create a fictional one on the spot. Regardless of if they use an actual example or a fake one, their main goal is to steal your money.
Catfishing is when someone sets up a fake profile to win your trust and ultimately gets you to send them money. These scams are often associated with online dating and target vulnerable people looking for companionship.
Once the scammer has won your trust, they start asking for money, often for small amounts initially, then gradually increase it over time.
Here are some tips to help you beat wire fraud and keep your identity, data, and money safe:
If you have fallen victim to wire fraud, you need to act quickly to prevent further loss of money or data. Depending on the type of wire fraud you have fallen for, all or some of these steps will help you recover from the damage and even possibly help the authorities catch the scammer.
One thing you will want to do is report the scam to the authorities. Ensure you have all the information regarding the fraud available when you contact them, so they have everything they need to catch the scammer. Here are some places you should report the scam:
You will also want to contact the shipping company involved if it was a package delivery scam. If you were contacted via a social media account, you should also report the fraud to the website/platform.
If you gave the scammer money or your bank/credit card information, you will also want to contact your financial institution. If you sent money to a scammer, sometimes you can get the charges reversed depending on the scam. Many credit and debit card providers offer protection against fraud and will cancel all fraudulent charges on your account.
Usually, it's as simple as monitoring your bank accounts and then disputing or reporting unknown transactions to your bank.
If the scammer had you download an application or you clicked on an attachment, you need to make sure that you disconnect the affected device from the internet as soon as possible. Once you have no internet connection, run anti-virus and anti-malware software and let them remove any harmful software. Also, check your browser for extensions you didn't install and uninstall them.
If you entered any credentials on a phishing site or any malware is found on your computer, you will want to change the passwords on your internet accounts using another device. Start with any credentials you used on the phishing site and update your most important passwords, like those for email accounts, government sites, and financial institutions.
If you entered any personal information like your Social Security number on a phishing site or gave it to the scammer, place a fraud alert on your credit report. You also have the option of freezing your credit completely for ultimate protection.
Scammers have turned their phishing attempts to members or credit unions by sending out fake emails hoping to get their hands on valuable personal data.
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