Money transfer scams

Find out how money transfer scams work and what you can do to avoid getting involved in one. 

Simply receiving a payment into your bank account, withdrawing the cash then sending it abroad by other means, might seem like an easy way to earn as much as 20% commission.

But an offer to transfer money for someone is likely to be a scam and could lead to you laundering money for criminals, which is a serious criminal offence.

Money is laundered to disguise where it came from and is usually done to make it seem like the proceeds of crime came from a legal source. One of the many ways to do this is to put money through a series of bank accounts.

How money transfer scams work

You may be contacted by email, a letter or phone call, or even see an ad in a newspaper or on a website, offering commission on what seems like simple work with little risk.

Often the fraudsters target people on low incomes, such as students or people who have their details listed on recruitment websites or in chat rooms. It might also be pitched like an opportunity to work from home, where you are an ‘account manager’ or ‘transfer manager’.

All you have to do is receive a payment into your bank account, take it out as cash and then send it abroad using a money transfer service or other means. You might be told that the money is for trading shares abroad, or even that you will be helping a charity distribute funds.

But you are probably being used by criminals to launder money, as once it is taken out of your bank account as cash the money is almost impossible for law enforcement agencies to trace.

By helping fraudsters clean their dirty money you could be committing a serious criminal offence. If convicted you could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison and receive an unlimited fine.

Even if you do get to keep a small percentage of cash transferred, we have seen people eventually be asked to transfer money that they never received – usually having to pay it out of their own pocket for fear of the criminals.

The scammers may also try to access your bank account, using the details you have given them, to remove money from it.

Protect yourself

The scam is likely to be linked to organised crime and we strongly advise you not to respond in any way.

Remember that it is highly unlikely you have been ‘specially chosen’ by someone living abroad. You are instead one of many people that the scammers are trying to trick.

You should never give out your bank account details unless you are certain of who you are dealing with. If you have already given the fraudsters this information, tell your bank immediately.

Keep in mind that charities are registered organisations that rarely have problems distributing funds. You can check the status of a charity on the Charity Commission's Register of Charities (England and Wales) or the Scottish Charity Register.

If you think you have been involved in money laundering you should stop sending money to the individuals involved.

You can also find out more about what to do if you think you have been scammed.