Western Union Scam Victims Can Now Claim RefundsIf you’ve ever been the target of a scam, you may have noticed that the scammer was asking for payment using a money transfer service, like Western Union. Scammers like using Western Union, and until recently, the company seemed happy to profit from the transfers sent to them by unwitting victims. However, thanks to the Federal Trade Commission, Western Union is now offering refunds to anyone scammed using its service between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017. If you lost money to a Western Union scam, we’ll let you know what you need to do to claim your refund and how you can avoid being scammed in the future. Don’t wait, because you only have until February 12, 2018 to get that claim in!

Why is there a refund?

According to an FTC investigation, between 2004 and 2015, Western Union ignored hundreds of thousands of complaints about transfers it conducted related to various scam operations, as well as internal reports that its own employees were engaging in fraud. On January 19, 2017, Western Union admitted to aiding and abetting wire fraud, and as part of a settlement with the government it has agreed to refund $586 million to affected customers. Additionally, Western Union will have to implement strong consumer fraud protections for the future, including offering refunds in cases where the company doesn’t follow anti-fraud procedures.

How to get your refund

To get money from Western Union’s refund, you’ll need to file a claim for each time that you lost money in a Western Union scam, which you can do on the FTC’s claim website. You’ll see that there are two options, one for people with pre-filed claims, and one for people without them. Some people received a pre-filed claim form from a company called Gilardi & Co., which the Department of Justice is using to handle claims. If you got one, it’s likely because you filed a fraud complaint with Western Union or a government agency in the past. With this form, all you have to do is enter the Claim ID and PIN printed on it, and you’re done.

If you didn’t receive a pre-filed claim form, or the loss amount on the pre-filed claim form you received is not accurate, you’ll have to file your own claim. Fill out the form, and attach any documentation you have to prove your loss. If you don’t have any documentation, that’s okay, just describe what happened in as much detail as possible. Note that the claim form does ask for your social security number or individual taxpayer identification number, and if you don’t have either of these, you’ll need to explain your circumstances.

Once you’ve submitted a claim, the Department of Justice will try to verify it by comparing your claim to Western Union’s records. If they successfully verify your claim, you should get some money from the settlement. Like with many massive refunds, it may take a while for the money to reach you, possibly up to a year.

Avoiding future scams

If you receive a debt notice or an offer and you’re wondering if it’s a scam, you can actually tell a lot by looking at the payment methods the sender want you to use. Scammers often try to get their victims to send money in the form of wire transfers, gift cards, cash reload cards and cryptocurrency. The reason why there are so many Western Union scam victims is because money transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram have a lot of qualities that fraudsters like. They’re instant, one-way, internationally available services that allow senders to pay in cash, and once a transfer goes through, it’s difficult for the sender to get a refund. While normally, transfers can only go to a single person whom the sender names and have to be claimed with an ID, criminals can bypass this restriction by using fake IDs, or by enlisting corrupt employees who are in on the scheme.

Sometimes, criminals can even exploit differences in money transferal methods to create entirely new scams. For example, the secret shopper scam involves the scammer sending a victim a bad check, then asking them to withdraw the value of the check in cash to buy gift cards with transferable codes or to send through a wire transfer service. After several days or weeks, the check bounces, leaving the victim on the hook for whatever money they spent. The next time you receive a message asking you to send money, consider how you’re being asked to pay. If the payment method is instant, non-refundable and difficult to trace, there’s a good chance you’re being asked to participate in a scam.

Tons of people get scammed every day, but at least with this refund, Western Union scam victims will get to see some kind of reparation for their losses. For more information on how to spot scams, as well as the occasional refund notice, follow our scams blog.