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Wire transfer fraud: What is it & how to prevent it?

When it comes to banking and payments, one can never be too careful. 

Wire transfer fraud can be a real headache, catching you off guard when you least expect it.

If you get hit with wire transfer fraud, it's akin to a punch in the gut, leaving you scrambling to pick up the pieces.

The loss is even more so, when it happens on an international business payment, as the volume of every transaction is high. 

What was it wire transfer fraud? How can it be prevented? 

Read on…

What is the wire fraud activity? How does it unfold? 

Wire fraud is a type of financial deception conducted through electronic communication methods like email or phone calls. Here's how it typically unfolds:

  1. Initial Contact: The fraudster reaches out to the victim posing as a trusted individual or entity, such as a vendor or client.
  2. Deception: They use various tactics to convince the victim that the request for funds transfer is legitimate, often providing fake documents to support their claim.
  3. Urgency: To pressure the victim, the fraudster creates a sense of urgency, claiming immediate outward remittance payment is needed to avoid consequences.
  4. Instructions for Transfer: The fraudster provides details for the wire transfer, including fake account information.
  5. Transfer of Funds: Believing the request to be genuine, the victim initiates the wire transfer to the fraudulent account.
  6. Discovery of Fraud: The victim realizes they've been scammed when discrepancies arise or legitimate payment requests are received.
  7. Recovery Efforts: The victim attempts to recover the funds, but success is often challenging.

How to detect wire transfer fraud when an international wire transfer looks suspicious? 

Several factors can raise suspicion regarding an international wire transfer:

  1. Unusual Request: Unexpected or irregular wire transfer requests, especially for large sums or to unfamiliar destinations, can be suspicious.
  2. Documentation Deficiency: Lack of supporting documents or incomplete information accompanying the transfer request may indicate potential fraud.
  3. Identity Verification Issues: Inconsistent or unverifiable identities of the sender or recipient can signal illicit activity.
  4. Urgency without Explanation: Requests for immediate transfers with no clear reason or pressure to act hastily can be suspicious.
  5. Abnormal Transaction Patterns: Sudden changes in transaction volume or frequency from usual patterns may raise red flags.
  6. Transfers to High-Risk Countries: Transactions to or from countries known for financial crime or terrorism financing may warrant additional scrutiny.
  7. Unconventional Payment Methods: Use of unusual payment channels or methods, like third-party processors or cryptocurrency, can indicate suspicious activity.
  8. Discrepancies in Information: Inconsistencies between stated purposes and actual transaction details could suggest fraudulent intent.
  9. Unsolicited Requests: Unexpected requests for transfers, especially from unknown sources, should be approached cautiously as they could be part of scams or frauds.
  10. Reluctance to Provide Information: Resistance to providing requested information or becoming defensive when questioned about the transfer may indicate attempts to conceal illicit activities.

How are international wire frauds performed by cybercriminals?

International wire frauds carried out by cybercriminals involve a variety of deceptive tactics aimed at persuading individuals or businesses to transfer funds to fraudulent accounts. Here's an overview of how these schemes typically unfold:

  1. Business Email Compromise (BEC): In BEC scams, cybercriminals compromise legitimate email accounts belonging to company executives or employees. They use these accounts to request wire transfers from other employees, suppliers, or customers, often using social engineering tactics to create urgency.
  2. Spoofing: Cybercriminals spoof email addresses or phone numbers to make their communications appear authentic. They impersonate company executives, vendors, or clients to request wire transfers, often providing fake invoices or payment instructions.
  3. Malware Attacks: Malicious software, like keyloggers or remote access trojans (RATs), is used to compromise systems and steal login credentials or other sensitive information. Cybercriminals may gain access to online banking accounts or payment systems to initiate unauthorized wire transfers.
  4. Fake Invoice Schemes: Cybercriminals create counterfeit invoices or payment requests that seem to come from legitimate vendors or suppliers. They convince individuals or businesses to wire funds to fraudulent accounts under the pretext of settling outstanding invoices or payments.
  5. Impersonation Scams: Cybercriminals impersonate company executives, employees, or trusted contacts to request wire transfers from unsuspecting victims. They exploit social engineering or reconnaissance to make their requests appear genuine.
  6. Account Takeover: Cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to email accounts, online banking accounts, or other systems. They then use these accounts to initiate fraudulent wire transfers or manipulate legitimate transactions.

Can you get a wire transfer back if scammed through wire transfer fraud?

Here are steps you can take to attempt recovery:

  1. File a Fraudulent Activity Report: Your bank may require you to file a report detailing the fraudulent activity. Provide any evidence you have, such as emails or documents related to the scam.
  2. Request a Recall: If the wire transfer has not yet been processed or has been sent in error, your bank may attempt to recall the funds. However, success depends on factors like the timing of the request and cooperation from the recipient's bank.
  3. Contact Law Enforcement: Report the scam to local law enforcement agencies, especially if you believe you are a victim of a larger criminal operation. They may be able to assist in investigating the fraud and recovering your funds.
  4. File a Complaint with Regulatory Authorities: Depending on the nature of the scam and the parties involved, you may also want to file a complaint with relevant regulatory authorities, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

What should you do if you encounter wire transfer fraud? 

If you come across wire transfer fraud, follow these steps:

  1. Notify Your Bank Immediately: Inform your bank right away if you suspect fraudulent activity. Provide all relevant details about the suspicious wire transfer, including recipient account information and related documentation.
  2. File a Fraud Report: Your bank may ask you to file a report outlining the fraudulent activity. Submit any evidence you have, such as emails or documents associated with the scam.
  3. Request Fund Recall: If the transfer hasn't been processed or was made in error, ask your bank to recall the funds. Success depends on timing and cooperation from the recipient's bank.
  4. Contact Law Enforcement: Report the fraud to local authorities, especially if you believe it's part of a larger criminal operation. They can help investigate and potentially recover your funds.
  5. Report to Regulatory Authorities: Consider filing a complaint with relevant regulatory bodies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission to raise awareness and prevent future scams.
  6. Seek Legal Guidance: Consult with a lawyer specializing in financial fraud to explore legal options for recovering your funds and preventing future incidents.
  7. Enhance Security Measures: Take steps to bolster your security, such as updating passwords and enabling multi-factor authentication, to reduce the risk of future fraud.

How long do banks refund scammed money?

In the context of business international outward remittance from India, the duration for banks to refund money lost in a scam can vary. Factors such as the complexity of the fraudulent activity, internal investigation procedures of the bank, and regulatory requirements may influence the timeframe. While banks aim to resolve fraud-related issues promptly to maintain trust and confidence among business customers, there is no fixed timeline for refunding scammed funds. 

Refunds may occur within a few days, but in some cases, it could take several weeks or longer for the funds to be reimbursed to the business account. It's crucial for businesses affected by scams to maintain communication with their bank, provide any requested documentation or information promptly, and follow up regularly to ensure that their case is being handled effectively. Additionally, seeking assistance from regulatory authorities or relevant industry bodies may help expedite the refund process and ensure appropriate measures are taken to prevent future incidents.

What is an example of mail and wire fraud?

Mail Fraud:

  1. A fraudster creates a bogus online auction listing for a valuable item, such as a rare collectible.
  2. They send glossy catalogs or brochures via mail to potential bidders, often targeting collectors or enthusiasts.

Wire Fraud:

  1. The scammer uses email to communicate with interested buyers, offering additional information and photos of the item.
  2. They instruct the winning bidder to wire payment to a bank account, claiming this method is secure and convenient.

The Scam:

  • The advertised item either doesn't exist or is not as described.
  • After receiving the payment, the scammer vanishes without delivering the item or providing a fake tracking number.


  • Buyers lose their money without receiving the item.
  • Authorities investigate and charge the fraudster with mail and wire fraud for using postal services and electronic communications to carry out the scam.

The views expressed in the blogs on this page are solely the opinions of the authors and do not constitute expert advice. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. We disclaim any liability for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website.

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