The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that anyone losing money to a scammer through Western Union transfer in the last 15 years can submit a claim and hope for a refund.
Money wiring services provider Western Union has settled fraud charges brought by the FTC, the U.S. Justice Department and Attorneys Generals from a number of states, agreeing – through a Deferred Prosecution Agreement – to reimburse $586 million to victims of online fraud scams involving its services.
“If you lost money to a scammer who had you pay using Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017, you can now file a claim to get your money back,” the FTC, whose mission is to promote consumer protection and prevent anticompetitive business practices, said in a recent statement.
Online scammers typically pose as family members in distress (i.e. send-money-to-bail-me-out) or offer fake job opportunities, phony lottery tickets, and the list could go on.
Earlier this year, the agency revealed that from 2004 to 2015, Western Union received a whopping 146,909 complaints about bogus online purchases. Some of those complaints centered on actual Western Union employees trying to scam customers.
A total of 39 Western Union agents have so far been charged in the U.S. and Canada for mail fraud, wire fraud or money laundering. Law enforcement agencies arrested more than 100 more in other countries, according to the agency.
While some rogue Western Union staffers had joined forces with experienced scammers to carry out fraud, others decided to set up swindles on their own.
According to the FTC, an investigation revealed that Western Union knew that some of its agents were involved in fraud. Despite knowing it had full legal obligation to detect and report this criminal conduct, it failed to tell the proper authorities in a timely fashion.
“American consumers lost money while Western Union looked the other way,” said FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen. “We’re pleased to start the process that will get that money back into consumers’ rightful hands.”
If you are a victim of online fraud conducted through Western Union, and plan to submit a claim, know that the Department of Justice will have to verify and validate your claim before you can become eligible for a reimbursement.
You must submit your claim by February 12, 2018 or it will no longer be considered.
The submission forms involve a lot of other caveats and restrictions, so go through them carefully before forwarding your claim to the FTC.