Consumer Education Specialist, FTCYou probably know that Western Union runs money transfer services in the US and worldwide. What you might not know is that, according to the FTC, Western Union has known for years that scammers were using its system to commit significant fraud. Even when faced with clear evidence that many of its agents were committing fraud, Western Union kept taking people’s money. Probably billions in fraud-related transfers, sent since January 2004. But today, in a global settlement with the FTC and the US Department of Justice, Western Union agreed to return $586 million to people and create a real and strong anti-fraud program.
So, what kind of evidence was Western Union ignoring? Well, says the FTC, from January 2004 to August 2015, the company got more than 550,000 complaints about money transfers made for fraudulent lottery and prizes, family emergency calls, advance-fee loans, online dating and more. There were its own internal reports, which flagged fraud by some of its own agents, including many international agents that paid out fraud-induced transfers from US consumers. And there were warnings from US and international law enforcement about the fraud. And yet, the money kept rolling on through.
Under the settlement, Western Union will return $586 million through a process to be named later. (Watch this space for more information.) The company will have to train and monitor its agents so that people are protected. It won’t be allowed to transmit a money transfer that it knows – or should know – is a fraud. It has to block money transfers to anyone who has a fraud report, make it easier for people to report fraud, give clear warnings to people who are sending money, and refund a fraud-related money transfer if the company didn’t comply with its own anti-fraud procedures.
If you ever wire money, also keep in mind that it’s illegal for a telemarketer to ask you to pay with a money transfer. That’s right: Illegal. Scammers love using money transfer services because once you send the money, it’s gone forever. So, if a telemarketer asks you to wire money, already you know they’re a crook. Don’t wire the money, and then tell the FTC.