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Wire fraud

Wire fraud definition

Wire fraud is a criminal offense involving the use of electronic communication (e.g., phone calls, emails, or online messaging) to trick individuals for financial gain. Scammers commit wire fraud to gain money, property, services, or something of value.

Wire fraud is a broad term and may include various scenarios. For example, a cybercriminal may create fake (phishing) emails and ask recipients to provide sensitive information that the criminals can use for fraud.

See also: spear phishing

Wire fraud examples

  • Phishing scams. Criminals send emails that look like they're from legitimate organizations, such as banks or online services. These emails ask recipients to provide sensitive information (e.g., passwords or credit card details) — and the criminal uses this information for fraud.
  • Online auction fraud. Someone might create a fake online auction for a popular item, collect payments from multiple bidders, and then disappear without delivering the item.
  • Romance scams. Fraudsters establish fake romantic relationships online and fabricate emergencies or personal hardships to convince the victim to send money.
  • Investment fraud. Scammers offer fake investment opportunities that promise high returns but are entirely fabricated. Victims are convinced to wire money to invest but lose it all.
  • Tech support scams. Criminals pretend to be technical support staff from reputable companies and convince victims to pay for software or services to fix nonexistent computer problems.
  • Charity scams. Fraudsters create fake charities and get unsuspecting people to donate.

Preventing wire fraud

  • Don’t trust unexpected requests. Be careful if you get surprise emails, calls, or messages asking for money, personal details, or quick decisions. Before you do anything, make sure you know who's reaching out to you.
  • Educate yourself. Stay informed about common scams and fraud techniques. Being aware of the tactics scammers use can help you recognize and avoid potential threats.
  • Double-check email addresses. Always verify email addresses carefully, especially if you receive requests for money or sensitive information. Scammers often use similar-looking email addresses to impersonate legitimate contacts.
  • Secure your online accounts. Use strong, unique passwords for your online accounts, and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. Regularly monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity.