Safe International Money Transfers: Protect from Scams

For all the conveniences that our globalised economy offers us, it also introduces new risks. Many scams are committed across national borders, simply because it is so easy to communicate with or target potential victims from around the world. 

One of these risks is when sending money overseas. The importance of securing your overseas transactions cannot be overstated, because this could be hard-earned money that you never get back. For this reason, this guide looks at the risks that exist, the safeguards that are in place, and ultimately how we can protect ourselves (and our money!)

Understanding the Risks

There are many risks relating to international money transfer. We hear many stories of individuals being scammed via bank transfer Australia, along with money transfer fraud and identity fraud. Here are the key one’s to consider:

  • Identity fraud
  • Money transfer fraud
  • Scammer sent me money to my bank account
  • Scam bank transfer

A common cause of having a bank account hacked is through harvesting their victim’s data, such as their name, address, and other personal details. This may then be used to access accounts, open new accounts under their name, or fool other victims into sending money to the wrong person.

Another common scam is simply to trick the victim into sending them money, perhaps through an elaborate lie or pretending to be an entity that they are not. 

 

Regulatory Safeguards

Regulatory bodies are designed to protect customers and prevent unscrupulous behaviour. Finance has some of the most stringent safeguards in place because the stakes are high. Not only can individuals lose money, but the tax office can, along with the potential for terrorism financing and black market purchases. 

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) is the regulator that protects Australian consumers. Regulating the foreign exchange market and money transfer providers is one way in which they achieve that. ASIC approves companies who undergo thorough compliance checks (such as Know Your Customer) to ensure they have safe working practices and appropriate measures to protect customers’ money. 

For that reason, it’s vital for customers to seek out ASIC licensed money transfer companies, as these are subject to regulatory scrutiny – it means a respected body is looking out for you. We saw with FTX what can happen when a financial firm is not regulated by a reputed body. However, there are still some differences between the practices of licensed companies, meaning you want to go the extra mile to find money transfer encryption advertised, or 2-factor authentication.

 

Safe Money Transfer Methods

When looking for the most secure way to send money, you have many reliable options. Traditional banks undergo the most stringent regulations, meaning bank transfers are highly safe. But, ASIC licensed money transfer companies are also incredibly safe processes, too, and are also overseen by intelligence agency AUSTRAC

The question is a bank transfer safe will depend on the honesty of the person you’re sending it to. In other words, the safest way to send money is to be sure the recipient is who they say they are. If the person is a bad actor, a bank may provide a refund, but both banks and money transfer companies are proven to not always reimburse – less than 5% of scam victims are reimbursed by the Big Four.

Whilst licenced money transfer companies are marginally less regulated than banks, many are run like tech firms. For this reason, you may be more likely to find innovative and cutting-edge security measures (biometric, 2FA, rapid card freezing, encryption) on these apps than traditional banks, who run on legacy systems and dated apps. The likes of Revolut will also show contacts from your mobile phone, and this can be a second way to confirm you actually know the recipient.

 

Protecting Yourself from Fraud

Checking the licences of the provider that you choose is a fast way to ensure your safety – but it’s still not always watertight. Regulators and the companies themselves cannot control the customer’s behaviour, and this is often what is exploited. For this reason, it’s important to become security literate to ensure you never give the scammers an inch. 

Here are some core best practices:

  • Avoid public networks (i.e. cafés) or use reputable paid VPNs
  • Use secure passwords and do not store them in plain text on your PC
  • Always keep your device software up-to-date
  • Use reputable antivirus software
  • Shred your documents
  • Limit what you share online (social media can be pieced together for a comprehensive overview of your personal details)
  • Never give personal details to a stranger online or over the phone
  • Be cautious of clicking suspicious links, attachments, and be diligent on phishing emails
  • Most important tip: Stay up to date and well-versed on fraud prevention and online security  

It’s important to focus on the things we can control, and trust only licensed, reputable companies with what we cannot control.

 

What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed

If you are the victim of a scam, it may be possible to limit the damage that has been done – or in some cases, totally recoup your losses. And, it can be a great lesson to teach us what went wrong, and how we can be more diligent in the future. So, here are the actions to take upon being scammed:

Step 1 – Contact Your Provider

The first step is to inform your bank or money transfer company that you have been scammed. They may be able to place a quick block on your account, freeze your cards, and prevent further damage.

To be extra safe, you can contact IDCARE who are a cyber support service for identity compromises. Phone Number: 1800 595 160.

Step 2 – Change Your Passwords

The next step is to immediately change your passwords, particularly in the case of identity or account theft. It’s safer to assume the thief has your passwords, and this may endanger other accounts or areas of your life, including social media. Swiftly change your passwords, starting with any that are identical to your hijacked account.

Step 3 – Report the Fraud

The next step is to report the fraud. Whilst you have already reached out to the provider, you may want to file a police report too. In Australia, you will want to ring the local state police on 131 444 (or 000 if your life is in danger). 

Because it’s a financial incident, you should report to ASIC – this is even more important if the incident is investment or financial service related. It’s also worth reporting the incident to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Scamwatch (ACCC), who collect data about scams which can in turn help the community.

Step 4 – Inform Family and Friends

Mentioning the incident to family and friends cannot only help them stay safe from similar incidents, but will warn them about any potential messages they may receive from your email, social media account, or payment requests.

Conclusion

International money transfers have improved our quality of life and global economy. They help seamlessly facilitate foreign income, expatriate pensions, and much more – but they’re not without their dangers. 

There are two important things to consider when ensuring the safest international money transfer possible. Firstly, deal only with licensed, reputable companies. Secondly, take care of your personal details, passwords, and behaviour online, and treat incoming communication with caution. If these principles are followed, the majority of scams would run into a dead-end. Regulatory safeguards are important, but they are limited in what they can achieve, highlighting our own responsibility for identity fraud protection through safe practices.