If there's one thing in this world we safeguard most, it's our hard-earned cash. We work hard for it, so it stands to reason that we feel the loss pretty deeply when we fall for a scam that sees it leaving our grasp.
Worse still is when it's absolutely something that could've been avoided. We all transfer money, between friends and family, or even just for paying our bills. But sometimes things like that can get a bit more sinister.
Here are a few common money transfer scams and how to avoid them:
#1 Lottery/sweeps winnings
One of the most common scams around is getting sent an email declaring you the winner of an epic prize or sum of money. You've won, congrats! Except you haven't, because in order to claim your 'winnings', the host of the competition insists that you need to first send through a claiming fee, or maybe your credit card details in order for the transfer to be processed.
I don't think so. The best way to avoid this is to keep your wits about you — you haven't entered any competitions, so why would you suddenly win one? Read the fine print on everything you sign, and know that no matter the prize, it's never going to be worth giving up your financial details and losing all your cash.
#2 Foreign 'dignitaries'
If you've ever received contact from a prestigious foreign dignitary (the most common being a Nigerian prince), who's in desperate need of your assistance, chances are incredibly high that this is a scam. Often, this kind of email gets sent around to unsuspecting persons, promising a world of riches if the receiver can send money to the 'dignitary' in order to get them out of trouble, or out of the country.
As a blanket statement: do not send money to anyone you don't know. It doesn't matter if they're a prince from Nigeria or just a random person online. Don't send money to a stranger — you cannot verify the transaction and you could lose more than you bargained for.
#3 'Loved ones' in need
Even if someone is using a name you're familiar with, it's always best to check that they're legitimate. Say you get a text message purporting to be one of your family members and they're in trouble — but it's from a number you don't recognise. That should be an automatic red flag.
You should never take something at face value when it comes to transferring money. Sure, it's probably not going to fund a huge international terrorist enclave or start up political drama in Russia (though who knows, really), but it's still yours and you should triple check before you send it through.
#4 Online dating
Matters of the heart are never easy. If you've fallen head over heels for a stranger on the internet, admitting to yourself that they may not be all you hoped for can be difficult. And it's harder still if you just want to shower them with gifts and money to show your affection, because you shouldn't send a thing until you can verify that they and their feelings are absolutely real.
Sadly it's true: there are people out there who take advantage of the lonely hearts looking for love, in order to find themselves a bit of cash. Best practice here? Safeguard both your heart and your bank account. Make sure that the person you're talking to is real, and hold off until you've got proof of your relationship before you start sending any expensive gifts.
It may seem self-explanatory, but sometimes we get caught up in the moment and things happen. That's why it's important to take care when it comes to money transfers.
Just remember: don't send money to strangers, always triple check the numbers, and when in doubt, stay off the internet.