Western Union must compensate consumers duped into wiring money to fraudsters

Created date

May 1st, 2020

We’ve covered the “family emergency scam,” where someone pretends to be a relative who needs money for an urgent car repair, to get out of jail, or to leave a foreign country. To make the problem go away, you’re asked to wire money through Western Union.  

We’ve covered the phony business scam, where fraudsters lure victims with promises of lucrative work-from-home opportunities. All you have to do is wire money through Western Union and they will send you everything you need to make your business a success. 

You never receive anything, and the people who made those promises are long gone. These are just two of many scams that use Western Union to move the money. 

As scammers figured out long ago, once money passed through Western Union, it was impossible to trace and impossible to get back.

For years, Western Union’s policies enabled scammers, but hopefully, recent actions by the federal government will end or at least curtail scammers who rely on wire transfers.  

Legal action

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service took legal action against Western Union alleging that, for many years, Western Union knew that fraudsters around the world used the company’s money transfer system to bilk consumers, and that some Western Union agents were complicit in the frauds. 

The complaint also alleged that Western Union failed to put in place effective anti-fraud policies and procedures and to act promptly against problem agents.

To make amends, the company must pay $586 million to consumers who were scammed into transferring money through Western Union. 

The first wave of payments—approximately $153 million—is being distributed to 109,000 consumers who were ripped off by scammers using Western Union. Consumers are receiving the full amount they lost to the scammers. 

“The $153 million distribution…brings some measure of justice for the elderly and other victims who were financially harmed by the fraudulent schemes in this case,” says Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s criminal division. “The department remains resolute in its efforts to not only prevent fraud from occurring in the first place but also to find and return ill-gotten gains.”

“Western Union turned a blind eye to the fraudulent payments made through its money transfer system,” says Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We’re glad to be returning money to those consumers who were ripped off by fraudsters exploiting the Western Union system, and we will not tolerate Western Union or other payment companies facilitating fraud.”

More information about the Western Union refund program and its compensation to victims is available on the Western Union remission website at westernunionremission.com. Further questions may be directed to the Western Union remission administrator by phone at 1-844-319-2124 or by email at info@WesternUnionRemission.com.