How To Protect Yourself From Email Money Transfer Fraud?

How To Protect Yourself From Email Money Transfer Fraud?

Written by Lisa Rennie
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated October 5, 2021

Sending and receiving funds from another party has never been easier thanks to the internet. These days, you can send or receive money in the form of an email money transfer (EMT), which is a banking service that lets you transfer funds from one bank account to another using an email address and online banking platform. In Canada, email money transfers are often referred to as Interac e-Transfers.

Although EMTs are a secure way to transfer money, that doesn’t mean they are free of error or fraud. In fact, many Canadians have fallen victim to email money transfer frauds. According to a study by Interac, 96% of Canadians can’t spot EMT fraud. 

Read on to find out more about these types of frauds and what you can do to protect yourself. 

How Do Email Money Transfers Work?

To send money via an email money transfer, the sender chooses the account that the funds will be withdrawn from, the exact amount of the money being sent, and the recipient of the money. Funds are debited from the sender’s account as soon as the transaction is confirmed.

The recipient will receive an email notifying them that there is money waiting for them to deposit into their account. In order to access the money, the recipient must first answer a security question. Too many incorrect answers will result in the funds being returned to the sender.

Once the recipient accurately answers the security question, the money will be immediately deposited. However, if the recipient has their account set up to auto-deposit, no security question will be required. 

Find out if an e-transfer can be reversed after it’s been deposited.

What Are Email Money Transfer Fraud?

Sending money through an Interac e-Transfer is generally considered safe thanks to the protocol involved and the cybersecurity measures that online banking institutions employ. And the added step of requiring the recipient to accurately answer a specific question that the sender has already communicated to the recipient further adds to the blockade of security. 

That said, email money transfer fraud still can and do occur, despite the safety protocols in place. Criminals use several ways to carry through with their email money transfer fraud by intercepting funds and having them deposited into their accounts rather than the account the sender intended the money to go to. 

Types Of Email Money Transfer Frauds

There are several types of email money transfer frauds to be on the lookout for so you don’t end up a victim of one. 

Online Marketplace Fraud

There are several popular online classified ad platforms that help Canadians buy and sell products and services. But when using an email money transfer to settle the deal, buyers and sellers should use some caution. 

There have been reports of sellers losing money to scammers who use this particular platform for theft. Sellers will hand over the goods they are selling and accept an e-Transfer from the buyer, only to have the transfer reversed because the funds were being sent from a hacked or fraudulent account. 

Others techniques used to commit email money transfer fraud include the buyer claiming to be from a different city and unable to meet in person. The buyer will then ask the seller to ship the product, but the funds never reach the seller. 

In other cases, a scammer may falsely list a product for sale and request the funds to be transferred via email. The goods may end up being fake, or they may never be given to the buyer at all. 

Learn how to transfer money with MoneyGram.

Interac e-Transfer Interception Fraud

With about 371 million email money transfers worth over $132 billion made in Canada in 2018 alone, it’s easy to see why this sector would be an attractive target for fraudsters. But that leaves unsuspecting e-Transfer users vulnerable if they’re not careful. 

Interac e-Transfer interception fraud happens when criminals intercept the e-Transfer of funds before they reach the intended bank account. Instead, the money is diverted to a different bank account. Fraudsters are able to intercept the transfer of funds electronically by accessing the recipient’s text messages or email account. This type of scam is made even easier when senders choose an obvious security question.  

Find out if you can transfer money from your credit card to your bank account.

Rental Fraud

Some fraudsters use multiple tactics to carry out a rental or apartment scam. One scenario occurs when a “landlord” advertises an apartment available for immediate occupancy. The landlord will say that the place needs to be rented right away and offer it at a low price. Once you’re interested and want to see the apartment, the landlord will claim to be abroad at the moment but will require a security deposit via e-Transfer to secure the deal. 

Advance Fee Fraud

Advance fee fraud comes in various forms. The following are just two examples of this type of fraud.

  • Lottery Scam: Fraudsters will tell a prospective victim that they’ve won some sort of lottery, then inform them that they must first pay an advance fee or provide personal information before the prize can be claimed. 
  • Fraudulent Vehicle Sale: Scammers will list a vehicle for sale online and ask for a deposit to be made first. Once an advance fee is paid, the car and the seller disappear, along with the deposit. 

It’s important to note that while these types of advance fee scams are often carried out via Interac e-Transfer, this isn’t always the case. It’s important to be vigilant about all lenders or service providers that ask for an upfront fee of any kind.

Romance Scam

This type of scam involves fraudsters reaching out to others online in hopes of making a romantic connection. The scammer will take the time to develop a relationship and get the victim to trust them. 

Eventually, the fraudster will ask for money to cover the cost of an emergency or to travel to where the victim lives so they can finally meet in person. This may happen over and over again until eventually the fraudster drops all communication and disappears, never paying back the money sent to them. 

How To Protect Yourself From Email Money Transfer Fraud

While there may be plenty of ways for criminals to scam people out of their hard-earned money, there are ways to ensure that you are protected. Keep the following tips in mind to ensure you don’t fall prey to any email money transfer scams. 

  • Only accept and send email money transfers to those you know
  • Don’t give out any sensitive personal information 
  • Don’t make any upfront payments in advance of a transaction
  • Be wary of anyone who says they can’t meet you in person 
  • Don’t lend money to anyone you don’t know well, even if you get close in a short period of time
  • Use a strong and unique security question
  • Use hard-to-guess passwords (and do not share them with anyone)
  • Sign up for Interac e-Transfer auto-deposit, which doesn’t require password transactions and will make transfer interception difficult. 

Learn how fraud alert can help protect you from identity theft.

How To Spot An Email Money Transfer Scam? 

The best way to avoid being victimized by an email money transfer scam is to recognize them. Here are some things to look for:

  • Payment is demanded before a product is received
  • Deals that are too good to be true
  • Security answer is requested through text message or email
  • Typos and grammatical errors in the messaging, signifying that the person is in a foreign country despite claiming to be local
  • Money transfers you were not expecting

What Should You Do If You’ve Been A Victim Of A Money Transfer Scam

If you’ve been scammed out of a large sum of money or have had your personal information stolen, report the incident to your banking institution right away and call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or by visiting antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.

Final Thoughts

Email money transfers make sending and receiving money very easy, fast, and convenient. But in exchange for this convenience comes a heightened level of security required to ensure your funds are kept safe during an exchange. Get up to speed on the various scams going around and be smart about how you conduct money transfers online to avoid becoming a victim of an email money transfer scam.


Rating of 5/5 based on 1 vote.

Lisa has been working as a writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same. She's used a variety of financial tools over the years and is currently growing her money with Wealthsimple, while stashing some capital in a liquid high-interest savings account so that she always has a financial cushion to fall back on. She's also been avidly using her Aeroplan TD credit card to collect as many Aeroplan points as possible to put towards her travels!

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