How money coming in is actually going out

Western Union, Moneygram and similar businesses allow you to send money quickly. Their services are useful for transmitting funds to friends, relatives and others you know well. But scammers frequently take advantage of victims by convincing them to wire money to a stranger, often someone in a foreign country.

The initial hook can take many forms. In every case, the scam ends the same way … you are asked to wire money; once you do, it’s gone for good.

Consumers lose millions of dollars each year through wire fraud. Hawai‘i’s BBB receives calls often from duped residents who believed they “won a prize” or they were going to “work” as a secret shopper. Locally, we have seen consumers lose as much as $50,000, or taking a mortgage out on their house in order to claim a winning.

The most important thing for consumers to remember is this: Never wire money to someone you haven’t known for a long time. If you have truly won a lottery (which are illegal in Hawai‘i) or a sweepstakes, you would not need to pay a penny to receive your winnings.

Hawai‘i’s BBB warns residents to look for the following red flags:

  • You are asked to wire transfer money.
  • You are sent a check in connection with a payment request. Scammers often win their victims’ confidence by sending a fake check for more than the so-called processing fees, shipping costs or other expenses. It may be a cashier’s check, personal check or money order. They instruct the victim to cash the check at their personal bank account and send them a portion of the money back.
  • The contact indicates a confirmation code or money transfer control number (MTCN) is needed before your money can be withdrawn. Once you wire money, it can be picked up immediately.
  • A caller or e-mail appears to originate from overseas.
  • The person communicates via TTY service. TTY is used by the hearing impaired. Cons prefer the service because it disguises thick accents and makes calls untraceable.

If you are a victim of fraud, report it to the police and FBI. If you have any questions about someone who wants you to wire or tranfer money, contact Hawai‘i’s BBB for information.

Complaints or Questions, contact BBB:

808-536-6956 (O‘ahu)
877-222-6551(Neighbor Islands)