Scammed via Western Union? You have until May 31 to get your money back
The wire service settled charges that it aided and abetted wire transfer scams. If you were a victim, here’s how you can collect your portion of the settlement.
Last January, Western Union admitted to aiding and abetting wire fraud and agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). In a news release by Kevin Walters, communications director for the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance, Walters said Western Union agreed to pay $586 million to settle the charges.
“The charges alleged that scammers were able to use Western Union’s money transfer system to get payments from their victims, though the company was aware of the problem and received hundreds of thousands of complaints about fraud-induced money transfers made for fraudulent lottery and prizes, family emergencies, advance-fee loans, online dating and other scams,” Walters wrote in the release. “The company also allegedly failed to promptly discipline problem Western Union agents and failed to have effective anti-fraud policies and procedures.”
What this means is consumers who were tricked into wiring funds to scammers through Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017 can go to the FTC’s Western Union refunds page by May 31 and file a claim. You’ll only get a refund for the amount of money you transferred — no other expenses or fees. Once the Justice Department verifies your claim (takes about a year), it will mail you a check as long as you don’t owe the federal government any money. That’s why the claim process requires your Social Security number. It’s OK. Administrators handling the settlement process insisted the process is secure.
You’ll find more details about the settlement on the FTC’s refunds page. Walters and TDCI shared these great tips for avoiding wire transfer and other payment scams:
- Consider your payment method. If you are being required to send money via wire transfer, reloadable gift cards, or iTunes gift cards, it is likely a scam. Sending money using these methods offers little to no protection and makes it nearly impossible to get your money back if you are scammed.
- Be skeptical of your caller ID. ID spoofing is a common tactic scammers use to appear as a local number in your caller ID. Consider not answering numbers you don’t recognize and letting those calls go to voicemail. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, do not press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Winning millions in the lottery always sounds like great news. But that news is likely a scam if you are required to wire or send money in order to receive the prize.
- Keep your personal information secure. Never give out personal information when contacted by someone you don’t know or by unsolicited phone calls.
- Be cautious of threats and high-pressure sales tactics. Scammers often use threats and high-pressure sales tactics to trick consumers into making rushed or emotion-driven decisions. Take the time to ask questions and do your research before agreeing to any payment.
Both the TDCI and I encourage victims of any scam to report it to the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/complaint and on the Better Business Bureau’s ScamTracker.
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