< Fraud Awareness

Fraud types

While the internet has connected us to more information than ever, today’s digital age has made it easier for scammers to perpetrate their fraudulent activity. From faux social media postings to password phishing for financial accounts, scammers have found countless ways to get their hands on other peoples’ money.
They use any means to contact victims—telephone, snail mail, email, and the Internet.
They gain your trust and when they have you hooked, they ask you for money; then they take it and run.
The scenarios they use to lure you in change, constantly. But you can protect yourself and your friends and family by arming yourself with knowledge of the most common types of fraud.

Stay Informed

Western Union is helping to protect consumers from falling victim to money transfer scams through education and awareness.

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Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam

Victim is asked to pay upfront fees for financial services which are never provided. Victims often send a succession of transactions for payment of various upfront fees. Common methods could include: credit card, grants, loans, inheritance, or investment.

Associated with:
Tax scam, Telemarketing, Immigration scam, Charity scam, Social Networking scam, Fake Check scam, Grandparent scam

4 ways to protect yourself against advanced fee and prepayment scams


Anti-Virus scam

Victim is contacted by someone claiming they are from a well-known computer or software company and a virus has been detected on the victim’s computer. The victim is advised that the virus can be removed and the computer protected for a small fee with a payment by either credit card or a money transfer. In reality, there was no virus on the computer and the victim has just lost the money they sent for the protection.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Identity Theft, Phishing

5 Ways to protect yourself from tech scams


Charity scam

The victim is often contacted by email, mail or phone by someone asking for a donation to be sent by money transfer to an individual to help victims of a recent current event, such as a disaster or emergency (such as a flood, cyclone, or earthquake). Legitimate charity organizations will never ask for donations to be sent to an individual through a money transfer service.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Phishing, SMS/Smishing

Western Union and Better Business Bureau Warn of Charity Scams During Giving Season, 6 tips for avoiding charity scams


Emergency scam

Victim is led to believe that they are sending funds to assist a friend or loved one in urgent need. Victim sends the money with urgency as the victim’s natural concern for a loved one is exploited.

Associated with:
Grandparent scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam

Western Union and Better Business Bureau Partner to Protect Consumers from Emergency Scam


Employment scam

Victim responds to a job posting and is hired for the fictitious job and sent a fake check for job related expenses. Check amount exceeds the victim’s expenses and victim sends remaining funds back using a money transfer. The check bounces and the victim is responsible for the full amount.

Associated with:
Mystery Shopping scam, Fake Check scam

3 employment scams and tips to help avoid becoming a victim



Threats to life, arrest or other demands by scammers to unlawfully obtain money, property or services from a victim through coercion that they supposedly owe and threatens if they do not cooperate.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Relationship scam, Immigration scam, Tax scam, Emergency scam, Anti-Virus scam, Phishing


Fake Check scam

Victims are often sent a check as a part of a scam and told to deposit the check and use the funds for employment expenses, internet purchases, mystery shopping, etc. The check is fake (counterfeit), and the victim is left responsible for any funds used from the check. Remember, funds from a check deposited into an account should not be used until the check officially clears which can take weeks.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Mystery Shopping scam, Employment scam, Overpayment scam, Internet Purchase scam, Lottery / Prize scam, Rental Property scam

How to avoid fake check scams


Grandparent scam

This scam is a variation on the Emergency scam.

The victim is contacted by an individual pretending to be a grandchild in distress, or a person of authority such as a medical professional, law enforcement officer, or attorney.

The fraudster describes an urgent situation or emergency (bail, medical expenses, emergency travel funds) involving the grandchild that requires a money transfer to be sent immediately.
No emergency has occurred, and the victim who sent money to help their grandchild has lost their money.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Emergency scam

6 tips and insights to avoid the grandparent scam


Identity Theft

Identity thieves use personal information (e.g., Social Security numbers, bank account information and credit card numbers) to pose as another individual. This may include opening a credit account, draining an existing account, filing tax returns or obtaining medical coverage.

Associated with:
Internet Purchase scam, Phishing, SMS/Smishing, Social Networking scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Immigration scam, Tax scam, Employment scam, Anti-Virus scam, Relationship scam


Immigration scam

Victim receives a call from someone claiming to be an immigration official saying there is a problem with the victim’s immigration record. Personal information and sensitive details related to the victim’s immigration status may be provided to make the story seem more legitimate. Immediate payment is demanded to fix any issues with the victim’s record and deportation or imprisonment may be threatened if payment is not made immediately by money transfer.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Overpayment scam, Emergency scam

6 tips to protect yourself from an immigration scam


Internet Purchase scam

Victims could be the buyer or a seller of items (e.g. pets, cars) or services advertised online through Craigslist, eBay, Alibaba, Gumtree, carsales.com, etc. Scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine site advertising an item at a low price. They ask you to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card or money transfer, after the money is sent, the victim never receives the merchandise or service. Scammers also pretend to be legitimate buyers by sending more than the selling price, and asks the seller to wire the difference back to them via a money transfer.

Associated with:
Overpayment scam, Rental Property scam, Fake Check scam

Fraud alert: Internet puppy purchase scams rising, Tips to protect yourself from online shopping scams this holiday season


Lottery / Prize scam

Victim is told that they have won a lottery, prize or sweepstakes and that money must be sent to cover the taxes or fees on the winnings. The victim may receive a check for part of the winnings and once the check is deposited and money is sent, the check bounces.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Fake Check scam

7 tips to avoid lottery scams , Avoid falling for sweepstakes scams


Money-Flipping scam

Social media is being used to lure new victims into an old get-rich-quick scam where users are advertising ways to turn $100 into $1,000 by “flipping money”. The pitch suggests investors can take advantage of quirks in the monetary system to leverage additional cash and turn a few hundred dollars into thousands. Once con artists have access to the cash, they often block the victim from contacting them via social media or phone number.

Associated with:
Social Networking scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam

Money Flip or Flop? How to Avoid Falling for Online Scams



Military service members are an appealing target for scammers for several reasons. They are abusing the wide-spread admiration for the military and posing as service men and women in order to trick people into sending them money.

Associated with:
Relationship scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Emergency scam, Charity scam, Employment scam

Latest wrinkle on scams: Crooks pose as member of the military


Mystery Shopping scam

The fraudster contacts the victim through an employment website, or the victim responds to an ad about an employment opportunity to evaluate a money transfer service. The fraudster often sends the victim a check to deposit and instructs the victim to send a money transfer, keeping a portion of the check for their pay. The victim sends the money, the fraudster picks it up, and when the check bounces the victim is left responsible for the full amount.

Associated with:
Fake Check scam, Employment scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam

Why offers to become a mystery shopper require lots of scrutiny


Overpayment scam

The fraudster sends the victim a check that appears to be valid as payment for a service or product. Typically, the amount of the check exceeds what the victim expects to receive, and the fraudster tells the victim to send the excess back using a money transfer. When the check bounces, the victim is left responsible for the full amount.

Associated with:
Internet Purchase scam, Fake Check scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam

Watch your back: Payment scams common in online buying & selling



Communication impersonating a trustworthy entity, such as a bank or mortgage company, intended to mislead the victim into providing personal information or passwords. A Phish is a fraudulent attempt, usually made through email (although can also be made via phone or text), to steal your personal information or propagate malicious code or software onto your computer.

Associated with:
Relationship scam, Extortion, Emergency scam, Social Networking scam, SMS/Smishing

Know warning signs of a phishing scam


Relationship scam

Victim is led to believe that they have a personal relationship with someone they met online often by social media, in an online forum or on a dating website. The victim is often emotionally invested, often referring to the recipient as a fiancée.

Associated with:
Social Networking scam, Military, Emergency scam, Extortion

Looking for love on the Internet in 2016, When dating online, do not send money to people you have not met in person


Rental Property scam

Victim sends money for deposit on a rental property and never receives access to the rental property or the victim may also be the property owner who is sent a check from the renter and asked to send a portion of the check back using a money transfer and the check bounces.

Associated with:
Internet Purchase scam, Fake Check scam, Overpayment scam

Landlords in the spotlight – how tenants can avoid getting stung, Western Union and Better Business Bureau Fight Online Rental Scams


Social Networking scam

If a cybercriminal gains access to your social media accounts, they also gain access to your close friends and family. Criminals and con artists can take advantage of how much personal information people share online, and then use this information to make skillful and highly targeted pitches to their friends and family, often involving requests for money.

Associated with:
Phishing, Emergency scam, Grandparent scam, Military, SMS/Smishing, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Relationship scam, Identity Theft

Be safe while getting social to avoid social media scams



Beware of texts that spark urgency, asking you to click on a link, taking you to a compromised site, or get you to unwittingly divulge some personal information that could be used against you.

Associated with:
Identity Theft, Phishing, Anti-Virus scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Lottery / Prize scam


Tax scam

Victim is contacted by someone claiming to be from a governmental agency saying that money is owed for taxes, and it must be paid immediately to avoid arrest, deportation or suspension of driver’s license/passport. The victim is instructed to send a money transfer or purchase a pre-loaded debit card to pay the taxes. Government agencies will never demand immediate payment or call about taxes without first having mailed a bill.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Overpayment scam

Western Union Urges Consumers to Stay Alert for IRS Impersonation Phone Scam, Cash clever: Be too smart for these tax-time phone scams



Telemarketing broadly covers almost any commercial transaction that involves the use of a telephone to place or receive calls between a consumer and a telemarketer or seller for the transferring of funds, such as cash-to-cash money transfers or funds loaded onto a prepaid card, as payment for goods or services offered or sold through telemarketing, often relating to a promotion for a “free” or heavily discounted vacation, prize or sweepstakes scams, or the sale of “bargain” magazines.

Associated with:
Charity scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Rental Property scam, Lottery / Prize scam, Internet Purchase scam, Identity Theft


Unauthorized Transactions

Unauthorized Transactions are payment(s) that have not been authorized or consented to by the account holder. Examples may include: Payment(s) or cash withdrawals made after a card, device or account information has been reported as lost, stolen, compromised, cancelled, or expired; a card, device or account information has been stolen where the account holder is not aware; data deception by phone, text or email; or duplication of purchase by the merchant.

Associated with:
Identity Theft, Phishing, SMS/Smishing


Fake Bank Message / Employee Impersonation scam

Fraudsters make it look like the customer has been contacted by the Western Union Bank via phone call, email, or SMS, for example, using fake caller ID. They create a false sense of urgency by claiming there’s something wrong with the account and direct the customer to a site that looks like the internet bank login screen, asking for login details. Once they are entered, the account is hacked, and all the money is transferred to the fraudster’s account.

How to avoid?

Never share your bank details (User ID, card information or PIN-codes) anywhere. The bank will never ask you for those!

We never ask you to provide personal information, such as:

  • Card number;
  • Card PIN code;
  • Card CVV number;
  • Card expiry date;
  • Login password to the Western Union Bank or westernunion.com system;
  • Email password;
  • Mobile app login code;
  • Confirmation code received by SMS;
  • We never ask to transfer money to a certain account;
  • We never ask to change your password;
  • We never tell you to enter any code into the app or the desktop version of Western Union Bank, etc.

Do not download any attachments from e-mails. Check that e-mails from the bank end with @westernunion.com.

Associated with:
Anti-Virus scam, Identity Theft, Phishing, SMS/Smishing


Bank Account Permission scam

Fraudsters ask to create a Western Union Bank account under the customer’s name and share login credentials on a promise of quick and easy money. Even though the bank account is empty, the customer is giving up personal data used for verifying their identity with us. That data can be used to perform fraudulent transactions, participate in money laundering activities, or even take out loans, meaning the customer whose name is tied to the account might face legal consequences.

How to avoid?

  • Do not create any bank accounts with the intention to pass them on to third parties.
  • Do not share your login details with other people.
  • Do not sell your account or login information.
  • Do not provide your ID documents to other people.
  • Do not share login passwords to the Western Union Bank or westernunion.com system.
  • Do not share your email password.

Associated with:
Identity Theft, Unauthorized Transactions, Money-Flipping scam