What to do if you’re a victim of e-transfer fraud

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Interac e-transfers are one of the most popular ways to send money. Although it’s often referred to as a safe way to transfer funds, it’s not exactly foolproof. There is more than one way to make e-transfers fraudulently, which is why you need to be careful about how you use your accounts.

Ideally, you want to know the common scams to protect yourself, but even the most diligent people can still become compromised. Here’s what to do if you’re a victim of e-transfer fraud.

What is e-transfer fraud?

Generally speaking, there are two types of e-transfer fraud. It can happen when the money deposited into your account is returned to the sender or when your information has been compromised, and money is sent out of your account.

That’s right, money sent to you via e-transfer can be returned to the sender. This often happens when money was sent to the wrong account by accident or due to fraud. Now you’re probably wondering how that benefits the sender since there would be a paper trail. Well, the scammer is likely sending funds from an account that they have access to but don’t own. Basically, there are two victims here. You and the account owner that the fraudster is sending money from

The key to this scam is automatic deposits. When you have them turned on, the bank could say you were never entitled to that money. However, if you answer the security question correctly, you can say that the money was sent to you intentionally. If the money came from a compromised account, it would be returned to the rightful owner.

Now, if someone stole your banking details and sends an e-transfer from your account without you knowing, you do have some recourse. You just need to act on things right away.

What to do when you’re a victim of e-transfer fraud

Being a victim of e-transfer fraud sucks. Many people will feel ashamed because they would have been scammed out of money or products. While that sinking feeling won’t go away anytime soon, there’s no point in sulking. The best thing you can do is take the following steps to see if some of your funds can be recovered and protect yourself from future fraud attacks.

Contact your financial institution

The first thing to do if you’re a victim of e-transfer fraud is to contact your financial institution. You’ll want to tell them exactly what happened and why you believe that you’re a victim. There’s not much to say beyond the fact that the e-transfer made was not done by you. Your bank will immediately open up an investigation and look into your bank accounts.

If you don’t contact your bank immediately, you could become a victim again the following day. E-transfers have a daily limit of $3,000 (this can vary depending on the bank). If thieves could get that money once, they’ll try again the next day. If you haven’t taken any additional steps to protect yourself, you could find yourself out of even more money.

Change your passwords

Changing your passwords should be done immediately, but it’s not that simple. For all you know, your computer has been compromised with malware. If you change your passwords on an infected system, you could just be giving your new information to the same thieves.

Switch to a different system and change all of your passwords. You’ll also want to change the answers to any personal questions. Even though it may have just been your banking information that’s been compromised, you’ll want to update any vital passwords, including your email and wireless services provider.

If you suspect your computer has malware installed, you’ll need to install anti-malware software. Alternatively, you could do a factory restore on the computer, so everything is wiped clean.

In general, you’ll want to come up with new strong passwords for your online banking and email account. 

Set up fraud alerts with Equifax and Transunion 

Let’s assume that your account was hacked. After you’ve put in a fraud claim and you’ve changed all your passwords, you need to set up fraud alerts for Equifax and Transunion. This is important since you have no idea what other information the thieves have. With the right information, they could open up credit cards in your name without you knowing. This is known as identity theft.

Since a credit check is performed with either Equifax and Transunion whenever someone applies for new credit, a fraud alert is a good way of telling if something is happening with your credit score. If there’s a new credit check, Equifax and Transunion will alert you so you can investigate immediately. These fraud alerts come with an annual fee, but it’s worth it since you’re already a victim of fraud.

You need to set up fraud alerts with Equifax and Transunion because not every lender reports to both bureaus. For example, Capital One uses Transunion. If you’re subscribed to Equifax and the thieves open up an account under your name with Capital One, you may never know. Paying twice is annoying, but it’s necessary.

Be aware of common e-transfers scams

When sending online money transfers between friends or people you know, it’s perfectly safe. However, since an e-transfer can be reversed, you should never use it to send or receive funds with strangers. In addition, thieves have become quite creative when it comes to e

Online e-transfer scams

The most common e-transfer scam is when people are selling things online. E.g. a laptop or cellphone. The seller is asking $1,000, and a buyer is willing to pay right away. Even if the person is willing to meet in person, you should demand cash. Remember, accounts can be hacked, so the buyer could be sending the recipient money from someone’s account that has been compromised. Once that person realizes it, they’ll tell their bank that they’re a victim of fraud, and the transaction will eventually be reversed. In the end, you’re left with nothing.

Another obvious e-transfer scam is when the buyer is willing to pay you extra if you ship it. Instead of the asking price of $1,000, they’ll offer you $1,200 if you ship it immediately. If you demand an in-person meetup, they’ll make up any excuse possible to avoid it. Generally speaking, if someone is offering you more money than what you’re asking for, it’s likely a scam.

Text message scams

Every so often you may get a text message notification saying you’re owed a refund, you’ve won the lottery, won a prize, or you need to update your account passwords. These are all scams. Identity thieves are trying to get you to give up your financial information, social insurance number, and account numbers. This type of fraud is called phishing and they’re looking 

Fake apartment listings

With a hot rental market across Canada, thieves are now pretending to be landlords. The scam goes like this. You find an apartment listing on the internet that you’re interested in. When you contact the owner, they say that you need to e-transfer them last month’s rent in advance as a security deposit. They’ll say that you only need to give them the security answer if you want the unit to make you feel better.

There are two problems with this. They could still potentially access the money even without a password. It’s also possible that they’re not the owner of the unit and have simply shown you (and many others) an Airbnb apartment they’ve rented.

Social media accounts

Another interesting scam thieves have adopted is cloning influencers’ social media accounts. The accounts will look almost identical to the real people you follow. The only difference is a minor change to the account name. Eventually, the scammers will reach out to you directly and try to get you to buy or invest in a product. Of course, this is fraudulent activity, so these accounts should be reported.

Will I get my e-transfer fraud money back?

If your account was compromised, then there’s a good chance you’ll get your money back. The bank will need to do an investigation, and your account may be frozen for a little while, but you’ll probably get your money back eventually.

Now, if you were the person who accepted the transfer and it gets returned to the sender due to fraud, it’s unlikely you have any recourse. You could file a police report since it’s still technically fraud, but I wouldn’t bet on them doing anything about it. Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to consider it an expensive lesson learned.

How to prevent e-transfer fraud

If you’re reading this article, you’re likely already a victim of e-transfer fraud. While that may be frustrating, there’s not much you can do about it now. All you can do is prepare yourself for the future and look for suspicious activity.

Accept cash only

If you’re ever selling anything online, you should only do deals in person. By doing this, you can request cash only. Some people may offer bank drafts instead of an e-transfer. While this is acceptable, make sure you go with the buyer to the bank so you can see the draft being made. There’s always a chance that the bank draft that they’ve brought with them is fradulent.

Contact the credit bureaus

If you’re an identity theft victim and have seen fraudulent accounts appear on your credit reports, you’ll need to address it immediately. Contact Equifax and Transunion to report any accounts that aren’t yours. It’s a long process, but cleaning things up will help your credit score.

Use different security answers

If you’re sending an e-transfer, ensure you never put the security answer in the message. In addition, don’t use the same security answer for different recipients. For the password, contact the recipient offline via text message or a call, just in case their email has been compromised.

What to do if you\'re a victim of e-transfer fraud

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

22 Comments

  1. Steve on January 24, 2021 at 3:18 AM

    Good advice. I also always ask for cash with doing sales on Kijiji and such

  2. Siegfried Schumann on May 17, 2022 at 3:56 PM

    I sent $ 400.00 to someone via e transfer and have not received the goods. What are my options, if any.

    • Barry Choi on May 18, 2022 at 6:29 AM

      Siegfried,

      Since you sent the funds via etransfer, you don’t really have any recourse.

      • Angie on November 20, 2022 at 10:41 AM

        Barry – WHY is this so? This is absurd – a person who is being scammed is STILL a victim even if they have sent the funds!

        • Barry Choi on November 20, 2022 at 7:17 PM

          Angie,

          I don’t disagree with you. It’s just the way banks see things.

  3. Yvette Aird on June 7, 2022 at 11:27 AM

    I sent $500 to the wrong school by e-transfer and they refuse to give back the money.
    What should I do.

    • Barry Choi on June 7, 2022 at 7:42 PM

      Hi Yvette,

      Unfortunately, if the funds have been deposited, the transaction can not be reversed.

  4. steve diamond on June 28, 2022 at 8:29 AM

    sent 210 to a website via etransfer for cbd dog medication. cbd canada. never got the goods and no reply. how do i report it to get site shut down ?

  5. Rachel Dinh on July 26, 2022 at 10:49 PM

    Hello.
    If I was deposited $1000 from the email contact I know but the text after that requested money back looks suspicious. It has been 3 days since that money was deposited into my account. Is that a kind of scam?

    • Barry Choi on July 27, 2022 at 5:52 AM

      It’s possible that your contact’s account was hacked.

      Have you tried messaging them directly (not via email) to see if it was actually them?

  6. Lucy Jean on July 30, 2022 at 10:16 AM

    How long does it take to report a e transfer fraud if someone went in my account and took my cash? How long do I have to report this in order to get back my cash?

    • Barry Choi on July 30, 2022 at 3:25 PM

      You’d have to report it right away and see what your bank’s investigation finds.

  7. D M on September 9, 2022 at 11:48 PM

    I sold something online last week via etransfer. The transaction was complete a week ago (she received the item and I received the funds). Then this morning I notice the amount deposited into my account again. I have automatic deposit set up. The buyer messaged me that she accidentally sent another etransfer and now wants me to return the amount ($60) via etransfer. Is it safe to return the money to her via etransfer?

    • Barry Choi on September 10, 2022 at 8:10 AM

      D M,

      I’d wait another week to ensure the first e-transfer doesn’t get clawed back before sending the second deposit back. It could be a scam, but it could also be an honest mistake. I assume most scammers aren’t trying to get $60 out of people.

      • Hoyeen on September 16, 2022 at 10:54 PM

        My brother sold his bitcoin and got his money in CAD in my account. But after some days the bank notified me that the e-transfer was tagged fraud. What do I do.?
        My account has been frozen and they are carrying investigation.
        The transaction happened in Africa. And the money was sent to my account in Canada.
        The transaction was completed because he sent his own BITCOIN. But unfortunately the money the buyer sent was a scammed money.

        They want me to go to the bank and explain. What would likely happen there? I’m so scared.

        • Hoyeen on September 16, 2022 at 10:56 PM

          We don’t know anything about this and it’s about 2 people that reported. Though one money is still pending.

        • Barry Choi on September 17, 2022 at 9:10 AM

          YOu just need to explain to the bank what happened. They want to make sure you’re not part of the fraud. Unfortuantely, you likely won’t get your money back since the original account with the funds sent to you was compromised.

  8. Ken on November 12, 2022 at 2:56 AM

    Please what can I do about this? My company sent my pay check money into my account , without knowing my account had already been frozen bcos they needed an ID Verification. Then the verification was done and the ACC was unfrozen but my paycheck isn’t in my account.

    I called my company they said they sent the money and it went through and they didn’t get any notification saying that it didn’t go through. I contacted my bank on the other hand they said they didn’t receive any money and it is not pending.
    How do you think I can go out of this and get my money?

    • Barry Choi on November 12, 2022 at 7:17 AM

      Ken,

      if your company is claiming the pay went through, then ask for the payment verification details and numbers so you can take it to your bank and find out what happened.

  9. Cameron vaughan on November 13, 2022 at 4:14 AM

    I etransfered 20 .00 over five times to a gambling site and than i won 200 and withdrew it .but all i got was 100 i asked why they said my bank rook it back as they dont know for up to three weeks ive lost plenty over the years and won some never had this occur i was sent the paper on the withdrawl and it has (citygate daily transactions v2) as the takers of my deposits i looked it up and all i get is a natuural gas sites nothing alse maybe putin is paying for the war a little from everone im going to my bank and see what they can do .

  10. Jack on November 18, 2022 at 8:45 AM

    My brother(19) recently said he had his account hacked and he’s worried no one will do anything. He let me take a look last night and it’s all E-Transfers out. Just under $9000 has been sent out.
    He’s opened an investigation with the bank.
    Because he didn’t know, when I looked I found all the transaction IDs and emails they were sent to. What are his next steps?

    • Barry Choi on November 18, 2022 at 9:04 AM

      Jack,

      All you can do is contact your bank to open an investigation.

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