Earlier this year, Western Union agreed to pay $585 million to settle federal allegations that it didn’t do enough to prevent fraudulent transactions. Some of this money is to be paid out to victims of this fraud, but the government is warning people not to let themselves get scammed a second time..
We also know how they definitely won’t be able to claim that money: The Federal Trade Comission warns anyone who is eligible for a refund that they should not send money to anyone who promises to help them get a refund from Western Union. That’s right, there are monsters out there who would consider defrauding fraud victims because they’re susceptible to fraud.
It’s a sad statement about the prevalence of scams that the FTC has to put out a specific warning telling people not to do this.
Eligible customers will be anyone who sent a wire transfer through Western Union between Jan. 1, 2004 and Jan. 19, 2017, and was defrauded. Customers who made reports to Western Union should receive a form with the information about the transaction and their losses already filled out.
If you didn’t report the fraud to Western Union at the time, you can still receive a refund. Just make sure that you have any relevant documentation and hold on to it until you file your the petition. It will take at least a few months for the claim administrators to sort out who gets a payment and who doesn’t. You can sign up for email updates from the administrators in the meantime.
The amount of each refund will depend on how many people sign on. Chances are that victims will not be made whole by the refund process, but will instead only receive a portion of what they lost;
Now that Western Union is sort of paying attention, fraudsters’ currency of choice is gift cards. They are especially fond of iTunes gift cards, which are easy to transfer and re-sell.
It also makes it slightly easier to flag fraud, since it’s less likely that the cops or the IRS are demanding thuosands of dollars’ worth of gift cards from you to settle an old tax debt or bail your grandkid out of prison.
This anomaly helped Target employees spot a grandparent scam in progress, while people sending thousands of dollars to another country wouldn’t necessarily stand out at a wire transfer counter.