In November, I wrote about the process involved in filing claims if you had been a victim of a wire fraud scam involving wire transfers through Western Union. Since then, I have received emails from several readers asking for more information. Since the deadline for filing a claim is Feb. 12, you should be taking action if you haven’t already done so.
To recap the issue, about a year ago Western Union reached a settlement with several law enforcement agencies after acknowledging it “hadn’t done enough” to stop scammers from using the company’s wire services to collect money from scam victims. Western Union was accused of turning a blind eye to the activity.
The massive $586 million settlement covers consumers who lost money to scammers who directed them to wire money through Western Union between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 19, 2017. With the deadline quickly approaching, the Federal Trade Commission (a major party to the settlement) recently published some reminders and clarifications.
On her blog post, FTC attorney Karen Dodge laid out several things you need to remember regarding the claims process. Here are a few questions and answers:
Do I have to pay to get my money back? No. To file a claim, you must give your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number on the claim form. But nobody will call you to ask for those numbers, or for your bank account or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer, so tell the FTC right away. We’ve heard reports about attorneys and others offering to file on your behalf, but you can do it yourself, for free.
Where do I file? Start at FTC.gov/WU. The U.S. Department of Justice is managing the claims process through the company it hired, Gilardi & Co. Your claim will go to Gilardi, but Dodge suggests you start at the claims website.
I think I filed, but don’t remember. You can still file if you have already gotten a form. If you had previously reported your loss to Western Union, the FTC, or another government agency, you might have gotten a pre-filled claim form in the mail. But even if you didn’t, you can still file a claim.
What documentation must I have? While you can file a claim without documentation, copies of items such as receipts and transfer forms can help the Department of Justice to validate your claim.
Can I file by mail? Yes. If you got a claim form in the mail from Gilardi and you want to return it by mail, send it to United States v. The Western Union Company, PO Box 404027, Louisville, KY 40233-4027.
I hold power of attorney for someone else. Can I file on their behalf? Yes. If you have power of attorney for someone, or you represent their estate, you may file a claim on their behalf.
How much money will I get? That depends upon how many people file a claim, and how many claims the Justice Department can validate. I haven’t seen any reliable estimates on how much people might get back.
How long will it take to get my money? Dodge notes it might take a year for the Justice Department to process all the claims and send out checks.
Again, to file claims and for more information, visit http://FTC.gov/WU.