For our dear OFWs working diligently abroad, wire transfers are one of the best ways of sending money to their loved ones back at home. These remittances are usually faster and seamless than traditional paper checks. Also, wire transfers are seen to be a safer way to send money compared with cash. In this digital age, businesses and bank institutions are adapting various digital financial services to conveniently serve their clients and customers. You can send money or payment with just a click of a button or a tap of your finger at the comfort of your home, thanks to this thing called the internet.
However, with these conveniences comes along with risks. As our society adapts to the digital world, so are the fraudsters and scammers. The Internet had made the execution of any fraudulent activity faster, almost leaving no prints behind to trace them back.
So, in order to protect the OFWs’ hard earned money, it’s important to know the common money transfer scams to avoid falling victim to their tricks.
What are the Common Money Transfer Scams?
Fake Buyer Scam
Fraudsters love to lurk into various online classifieds and sales sites, scanning and analyzing endless merchants to find the perfect target for their attack. They will contact their potential victim showing (and feigning) interest in the merchant’s product or service. Upon making a deal, they will send their ‘payment,’ usually through fake checks, with the amount indicated higher than the original selling price. Then, they will ask the seller to wire back the extra cash through money transfers.
Expats who run online shops or businesses for extra money should be aware and vigilant with these types of scammers. Selling online will definitely give you some extra cash, but falling victim to this type of scam will incur more loss than gains.
One way to counter this is to never accept payment in excess of the product’s original price. If they insist on paying in check, ask for a check drawn from a local bank so you can verify it immediately.
Fake Seller Scam
If there are fake buyers, there are also fake sellers blending themselves into the e-commerce market. They advertise their products or services with prices so low it’s too good to be true. And turns out it is! They entice vulnerable victims to buy from these fraudulent merchants online, wiring money to pay for the merchandise only to receive nothing in return.
OFWs who love to browse and shop online should be wary of fake shopping sites and merchants. Make sure to shop from secured and trusted websites and avoid purchasing online using public WiFi for a hassle-free online shopping.
Advance Fee Fraud
Another common method used by online fraudsters is the advance fee scam. For instance, you applied for a loan. After submitting your loan application along with the necessary documents, you are asked to wire money as a form of payment for some sort of financial services that will never be provided. What’s worse is that you will never receive your loan. On top of that, you have given them your bank account information, all vulnerable to be taken advantage of.
The victim is contacted by a person pretending to be a grandchild, a family member or a distant relative in distress asking to wire money for an emergency. The person might say he was robbed, hospitalized or needed to be bailed out of jail and will ask the victim to send money to help him ‘get out of that situation.’ Except that there’s no emergency and that the victim’s precious money had been taken away.
When you find yourself in such a situation, don’t go into full panic upon hearing the ’emergency.’ Verify first the identity of the person on the other line by asking personal questions like the relative’s birth date, current address, or their work address. Do not conduct any wire transfer until you verify the situation.
Fake Prize / Lottery Scam
Who doesn’t love winning something online? Even if it’s just a discount coupon from your local fast food store or a whopping grand prize in the lottery, a win is a win. Except when you didn’t enter into any online contest or placed your winning numbers in the lottery draw.
Another tactic done by online fraudsters is the fake prize or lottery scam wherein they’ll send an email (all complete with a congratulatory message) to their potential victim informing that they’ve won some sort of a prize or lottery. Except that the victim will need to transfer money to pay for vague, suspicious taxes and processing fees before they could claim their ‘prize.’
If you ever receive such a too-good-to-be-true message, immediately disregard and delete it.
Nowadays, even your potential life partner can be found online. And while some people who tried and failed in online dating shook their heads in disapproval, there are some instances that successful relationships can sprout from these online dating sites and apps.
However, before you swipe right for your prince charming, be reminded that online fraudsters and scammers use such dating sites, forums, and apps to lure in victims. They will create fake profiles to make online relationships, get their victim emotionally invested and then persuade them to send money for the sake of love. Some even go as far as making wedding plans before running off with their partner’s money!
So, remember to slow things down, as you don’t need to rush things when it comes to love. Take your time to know the person you are talking to and never, ever send money to someone you only met online.
Similar to the fake buyer scam, the fraudster sends the victim what appears to be a valid check as a form of payment for a good or service. Usually, the amount stated in the check exceeds the original selling price. The fraudster then proceeds to ask the victim to wire transfer the difference after depositing the check. Turns out the check is fake and the victim is left responsible for all of the payment.
How Do I Outsmart a Scammer?
Now that you know the common money transfer scams, it’s time to devise a plan to ‘counterattack’ these attacks. If you ever found yourself in similar situations mentioned above, you’ll know the necessary actions you will make to avoid falling victim to them.
Always remember to never give off your personal and financial identity (like your own bank account information, credit card numbers, email account passwords and such) to people who seem to be suspicious or you find not trustworthy enough. Make sure to verify the identity of people you’re dealing or conducting transactions with.
Also, make sure that every banking transaction whether be it online or over-the-counter is personally done by you. Never disclose your card’s pin and other banking information to other individuals.
Protecting OFWs’ Hard Earned Money
Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are our modern-day heroes due to their sacrifices and hard work they’ve done in foreign countries, all for the sake of improving their family’s life here in the Philippines. They endure the long hours of work in the day and the feeling of homesickness at night to be able to provide their loved ones a better life and future.
They are also one of the backbones of our economy because of the remittances they send every year, keeping the economy gears running even in the midst of the pandemic. In 2021 alone, OFWs accumulated a total of $34.9 billion in terms of remittances, 90% of which are sent via bank transfer, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
However, these efforts and sacrifices will all be in vain if the fruit of their labors will land on the hands of people with bad intentions. Always stay vigilant online.