Steps to ensure money transfers reach intended recipients -


Steps to ensure money transfers reach intended recipients

People wire money every day to friends and family, both here in the United States and abroad. It is a great way to send cash to someone quickly.

There are some steps you need to take to ensure your money gets into the right hands.

Tom Bartholomy with the Charlotte Better Business Bureau recommends going to a reputable company that specializes in this type of service.

"There should be some level of trust with the company. Western Union is great, Moneygram is great," and Bartholomy added, "If any of their employees are involved in a fraud or theft with that transaction, you're going to be covered -- you're going to be made whole."

Regardless of whether you are sending money to someone in another state, or around the globe, the process is similar.

If the cash is going to a U.S. destination, you will need the receiving bank's American Banking Association routing number.

International transfers need a SWIFT-BIC code which is an acronym for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications Bank Identifier Code. Wire transfers to Europe require an International Bank Account Number.

Finally, you will need the recipient's account number, the address, and phone number of their bank.

Banks typically withdraw the money you want to send from your account. If you don't have a checking account, you'll have to give the bank or the wire transfer company – cash or a credit card. Most places do not accept personal checks.

Beware of strangers who might try to record any personal information you are providing to the wire transfer agent.

"We do see 'shoulder surfers.' If you are using a credit card to do this transaction, make sure other people aren't having access to that card, you're just not sitting it on the counter," Bartholomy said.

Lots of variables determine the fees. For example, on the Western Union website, we found a variety of options.

If you pay using a credit card, and the recipient picks up cash at another Western Union location, it will cost $95. However, if you pay using the bank's 'Online Bill Pay' option, and the recipient picks up cash at another Western Union, the fee drops to only $20.

Remember, whoever goes to pick up the cash will have to provide photo identification.

Regardless of how you transfer money to someone else, watch out for scammers.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends against wiring money to

  • a seller for an internet purchase,
  • a person you met online who says 'I love you', 
  • the owner of rental property,
  • someone offering an employment opportunity in exchange, or
  • a stranger who claims to be to be a relative in an emergency situation. (For example, someone who claims they are detained in a prison or hospital in another country.)

"If you are wiring money to somebody you don't know -- just don't do it! Flat out -- do not do it. Everything around that just spells fraud," Bartholomy said.

The Better Business Bureau offers a feature on its website where you can search for "money transfer" businesses where you live. The BBB will provide you with a list of ALL businesses in your area that are "accredited" (meaning in good standing), and those with poor or unfavorable ratings.

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information: 

  • The Better Business Bureau offers a feature on its website where you can search "money transfer" businesses in your city. The BBB will provide you with a list of businesses in your area that are Accredited Businesses and those with poor or unfavorable ratings.  
  • Under federal law, cash transactions totaling more than $10,000 must be reported on a Cash Transaction Report and suspicious cash transfers totaling more than $2,000 must be reported on a Suspicious Activity Report. Money transfers in excess of $3,000 must be documented. (Source: Office of the US Department of Justice:

The following information is in an article entitled "Wiring Money" (Source:

  • Scammers come up with all kinds of convincing stories to get your money. And many of them involve you wiring money through companies like Western Union and MoneyGram.
  • Why do scammers insist that people use money transfers? Because it's like sending cash: the scammers get the money quickly, and you can't get it back. Typically, there's no way to reverse a transfer or trace the money, and money wired to another country can be picked up at multiple locations, so it's just about impossible to identify or track someone down.
  • In some cases, agents of the money transfer company have been in on the fraud. In fact, the FTC found that between 2004 and 2008, agents of one wire transfer company helped fraudulent telemarketers and other con artists trick U.S. consumers into wiring more than $84 million within the United States and to Canada alone.

What You Need to Know:

  • Money transfers can be useful when you want to send funds to someone you know and trust – but they're incredibly risky when you're dealing with a stranger. Remember:
  • Wiring money is like sending cash; once it's sent, you can't get it back. Con artists often insist that people wire money – especially overseas – because it's nearly impossible to reverse the transfer or trace the money.
  • Never wire money to strangers or someone you haven't met in person. That includes:
    • Sellers who insist on wire transfers for payment
    • An online love interest who asks for money or a favor
    • Someone advertising an apartment or vacation rental online
    • A potential employer or someone who says it's part of your new online job
    • Someone who claims to be a relative or friend in dire straits – often in a foreign jail or hospital – and wants to keep it a secret from the family
  • Never agree to deposit a check from someone you don't know and then wire money back. The check will bounce, and you'll owe your bank the money you withdrew. By law, banks must make the funds from deposited checks available within a day or two, but it can take weeks to uncover a fake check. It may seem that the check has cleared and that the money is in your account. But you're responsible for the checks you deposit, so if a check turns out to be a fake, you owe the bank the money you withdrew.

Money wiring scams can involve dramatic or convincing stories. Here are some you may have heard about:  

  • Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams: The letter says you just won a lottery. All you have to do is deposit the enclosed cashier's check and wire money for "taxes" and "fees." Regardless of how legitimate the check looks, it's no good. When it bounces, you'll be responsible for the money you sent.
  • Overpayment Scams: Someone answers the ad you placed to sell something and offers to use a cashier's check, personal check or corporate check to pay for it. But at the last minute, the buyer (or a related third party) comes up with a reason to write the check for more than the purchase price, asking you to wire back the difference. The fake check might fool bank tellers, but it will eventually bounce, and you'll have to cover it.
  • Relationship Scams: You meet someone on a dating site and things get serious. You send messages, talk on the phone, trade pictures, and even make marriage plans. Soon you find out he's going to Nigeria or another country for work. Once he's there, he needs your help: can you wire money to tide him over temporarily? The first transfer may be small, but it's followed by requests for more – to help him get money the government owes him, to cover costs for a sudden illness or surgery for a son or daughter, to pay for a plane ticket back to the U.S. – always with the promise to pay you back. You might get documents or calls from lawyers as "proof." But as real as the relationship seems, it's a scam. You will have lost any money you wired, and the person you thought you knew so well will be gone with it.
  • Mystery Shopper Scams: You're hired to be a mystery shopper and asked to evaluate the customer service of a money transfer company. You get a check to deposit in your bank account and instructions to withdraw the amount in cash and wire it – often to Canada or another country – using the service. When the counterfeit check is uncovered, you're on the hook for the money.
  • Online Purchase Scams: You're buying something online and the seller insists on a money transfer as the only form of payment that's acceptable. Ask to use a credit card, an escrow service or another way to pay. If you pay by credit or charge card online, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Insisting on a money transfer is a signal that you won't get the item – or your money back.
  • Apartment Rental Scams: In your search for an apartment or vacation rental, you find a great prospect at a great price. It can be yours if you wire money – for an application fee, security deposit or the first month's rent. Once you've wired the money, it's gone, and you learn there is no rental. A scammer hijacked a real rental listing by changing the contact information and placing the altered ad on other sites. Or, she made up a listing for a place that isn't for rent or doesn't exist, using below-market rent to lure you in. If you're the one doing the renting, watch out for the reverse: a potential renter will say she wants to cancel her deposit and ask you to wire the money back – before you realize the check was a fake.
  • Advance Fee Loans Scams: You see an ad or website – or get a call from a telemarketer – that guarantees a loan or a credit card regardless of your credit history. When you apply, you find out you have to pay a fee in advance. If you have to wire money for the promise of a loan or credit card, you're dealing with a scam artist: there is no loan or credit card.
  • Family Emergency or Friend-in-Need Scams: You get a call or email out of the blue from someone claiming to be a family member or friend who says he needs you to wire cash to help him out of a jam – to fix a car, get out of jail or the hospital or leave a foreign country. But he doesn't want you to tell anyone in the family. Unfortunately, it's likely to be a scammer using a relative's name. Check the story out with other people in your family. You also can ask the caller some questions about the family that a stranger couldn't possibly answer. 
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