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Dale Investigates: Western Union Scams

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For years, scammers have been using Western Union to receive money from their victims. Now victims who have sent money through Western Union have until May 31, 2018 to make a claim for a refund!

Scammers have been separating people from their money by offering prizes, jobs, loans, and other financial gains in exchange for money up front. In some particularly egregious scams, scammers pose as family members or their representatives. They claim that the family member is in an emergency situation and needs money urgently.

That’s what happened to one grandmother who contacted TrustDALE. One day she got a call out of the blue about her grandson in California. The caller claimed that her grandson was in trouble. He had been involved in a drunk driving hit and run and was being held by the authorities. The caller said that she needed to send $2,000 right away to get her grandson out of trouble. He also told her not to tell the boy’s father.

The caring and concerned grandmother rushed to Western Union, as the caller had instructed, and sent the money. She then received another call, asking for more money, and instructing her not go back to the same location where she sent the first payment. It wasn’t until weeks later when she spoke to her grandson that she realized she had been scammed.

Western Union has been involved in these scams for years!

A joint investigation by the United State Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the U.S. Postal Investigation Service found that Western Union was aiding and abetting these scammers. 

“Knowing that its agents were involved in fraudulent schemes – and knowing that it had a legal obligation to detect and report this criminal conduct to the authorities – Western Union failed to act, leading to massive victim losses.” - Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco

On January 19, 2017, Western Union agreed to a settlement over the charges brought by the FTC. They agreed to pay $586 million dollars to refund money Western Union customers paid to scammers between January 1, 2004 and the date of the settlement, January 19, 2017.

If you were the victim of a scam and made a payment via Western Union, you have until May 31, 2018 to make a claim for a refund. You can go to ftc.gov/WU to start your claim and find specific information on the claims and repayment process.

Avoiding Scams

The best way to avoid scams is to recognize them from the get-go. If you get a request for money to be sent via Western Union or any method, Dale suggest you look out for the “three Fs”.

  • FAST - The caller says they need the money fast. Scammers try to make the transfer sound urgent, so you don’t have time to talk to family members or weight the decision to send the money.
  • FUNDS - The caller asks for a reasonable amount of funds under the circumstances. Many people would be ready to come up with a few thousand dollars to help a loved one out of an emergency.
  • FOUND - The caller can’t be found. Never send money to someone who can’t be found.

If you’ve been scammed, you can go to Western Union directly to report the scam. Since the settlement, Western Union has been forced to put in tighter controls that make it easier for you to file and resolve a claim, even if it took place after the settlement period.

Of course, if you’ve been scammed by any business, you can contact Dale. We’re here for you!