If you lost money to a scammer who had you send money to them via Western Union’s wire services, you can file a claim to get your money back. The Federal Trade Commission announced this month that consumers have until Feb. 12 to register claims as part of a $586 million settlement between the company and law enforcement agencies.
Back in January, Western Union agreed to pay $586 million to settle charges that the company had turned a blind eye toward scammers who had for years been using the company’s worldwide wire service network to receive payments from unwitting victims. The charges happened as part of a larger revelation that the company had allegedly duped millions of consumers through a company culture that encouraged agents to sometimes participate by getting a cut of proceeds from illegal activities.
In news articles, Western Union has admitted it “didn’t do as much as it should have” to stop scammers from using its services to solicit millions from scams such as fraudulent lotteries, fake family emergencies, advance-fee loans, online dating and other schemes.
“American consumers lost money while Western Union looked the other way,” said FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen, in a news release. “We’re pleased to start the process that will get that money back into consumers’ rightful hands.”
So, if you lost money to a scammer who had you pay via Western Union’s money transfer system between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 19, 2017, you can file a claim by visiting http://FTC.gov/WU before Feb. 12, and completing a claim form. (The Department of Justice may have to investigate your claim, so consumers are warned that it could be a year to get your check.) Whether you get all your money back will depend on how many claims are filed, and whether your claim can be corroborated.
“Knowing that its agents were involved in fraudulent schemes — and knowing that it had a legal obligation to detect and report this criminal conduct to the authorities — Western Union failed to act, leading to massive victim losses,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco. “Returning forfeited funds to these victims and other victims of crime is one of the department’s highest priorities. I want to commend our prosecutors, the FTC, and our law enforcement agent partners for their hard work that led to vindicating the rights of these victims.”
If you’ve already reported your losses to the Western Union, the FTC or another agency, you should be receiving a mailed form from the claims administrator, Gilardi & Co. The form will have a Claim ID and a PIN number to use when filing a claim online via FTC.gov/WU.
Filing a claim is free, so you should not pay anyone to file a claim on your behalf. No one associated with the claims process will call to ask for consumers’ bank accounts or credit card numbers.