How to spot a money transfer scam

Published by Rebecca Rutt on 01 February 2011.
Last updated on 21 October 2014

money transfer

Money transfer scams are the most common scams that consumers fall for, according to research from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Fraudsters dupe victims into handing over their bank details or cash either by email, phone or text. This type of scam accounted for nearly two in five (39%) scam victims in the past year, according to OFT figures.

Victims typically respond to appeals from supposed charities, to help release funds from a corrupt country or because they believe they are entitled to an inheritance.

The money transfer scams are sent out on a mass scale and advice service, Consumer Direct has also received more complaints about money transfer scams than any other type of scam, highlighting how prevalent they now are.

Michele Shambrook, spokesperson for Consumer Direct, says: "Scammers are using ever more sophisticated and cunning tactics to dupe people out of their cash. We want people to recognise the warning signs, and feel confident enough to seek advice from friends and family or from Consumer Direct."

This is underlined by separate data findings from discount voucher website One in 10 of its customer base of active email users admitted to being fooled by a scam email with financial subject matter. More significantly two fifths of the survey respondents claimed to receive spam e-mails with a financial subject matter on a daily basis.

Is it a scam?

If you suspect an email sounds too good to be true, as the OFT says, it probably is. Before responding to a money transfer request, consider the following things.

Are you the chosen one?

Is it really likely that you have been specifically chosen for this offer? It's far more likely that thousands of others will have received exactly the same information. 

What could you lose?

How much money could you lose by replying to this type of scam?

If you only have to send off a small amount of money you could decide the gamble is worth taking for the chance of a much greater sum but your willingness to reply will make you more susceptible to receive further scam emails, calls or letters and you could be put on suckers' lists – scammers put together lists of people who have responded to scams in the past.

Giving to charity isn't always good

Giving to a good cause or charity can be done direct rather than through an email. While charities do send out emails, if one you haven't heard of appeals to you for bank details stop and ask yourself why you are being contacted by an organization you've had no involvement with. Go to the organisation's website directly rather than click through to links. 

Has someone you know been targeted?

Would your family or friends be suspicious? Given the number of bogus money transfer scams, it's likely that someone you know has either received a similar request or knows someone else who has. Ask people you know for their opinion and if they have any background knowledge.

If still unsure, contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06. However, the very act of consulting others suggests you already suspect it's a scam.

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