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January 19, 2018

Deadline Approaches for Iowans to Seek Money Owed through Federal Western Union Settlement

Thousands of Iowans face Feb. 12 deadline to apply for refunds after previously wiring money to scammers through Western Union; Miller: Iowans likely owed millions

(DES MOINES, Iowa) Attorney General Tom Miller reminds Iowans who wired money to scam artists via Western Union from 2004 through mid-January of last year that the deadline is approaching for those victims to get their money back through a federal settlement.

Victims have until February 12 to submit a refund claim if they wired money to a scammer through Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017.

Consumers who previously reported losses to government agencies or Western Union should have received a settlement claim mailing from a settlement administrator. Victims do not need to have previously reported the fraudulent transaction to be eligible for a refund through this settlement.

Iowans are likely owed millions of dollars through the settlement, according to Miller.

“For Iowans who received a notice from the federal settlement administrator, this is a reminder that time is running out to apply for a refund,” Miller said. “But I’m also concerned about the many Iowa fraud victims who did not receive a settlement notice because they didn’t report the fraud in the first place. They’re just as entitled to a refund as those who reported it.”

Miller’s Office Notifies Additional Iowans
Late last week, Miller’s office mailed settlement notices to more than 18,000 Iowa residents, based on information the Consumer Protection Division obtained from Western Union. The company’s list includes Iowans who wired $500 or more in recent years to certain countries known for an elevated risk of fraud activity.

“We want to make sure refunds get to as many Iowa fraud victims as possible, and we hope these additional notifications will help more Iowans get the message,” Miller added.

All eligible victims, regardless of whether they received a settlement claim notification, can apply by the deadline through a link available at ftc.gov/wu or westernunionremission.com. Victims can also call 844-319-2124 for more information.

$586 Million Federal Settlement over Fraudulent Transactions
The refund program, announced in November, follows a $586 million settlement reached in January 2017 between the Western Union Company, the Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Western Union admitted that, between 2004-2012, it processed hundreds of thousands of transactions for company agents and others involved in an international consumer fraud scheme.

The company admitted it knew of the fraudulent activity but failed to act against its agents who either were involved in the transactions or helped facilitate them—often processing the fraud payments in return for a cut of the proceeds. The scams included fake lottery and prize awards, family emergencies, advance-fee loans, online dating, and others.

Western Union also admitted it failed to discipline problem company agents, and failed to implement effective anti-fraud policies and procedures.

Previous Iowa Settlement

In a separate settlement announced January 31 with 49 states, including Iowa, plus the District of Columbia, Western Union agreed to implement a comprehensive anti-fraud program and pay $5 million to the states, including nearly $54,000 to Iowa.

Consumer Tips for Wire Transfers

  • In these types of frauds, scammers seek immediate payment through money transfer services (such as Western Union or MoneyGram) and also prepaid debit cards (such as a Green Dot card).
  • Beware of calls urging you to wire money for an emergency involving a family member or friend. Scammers want you to act immediately, which is why it is so important to independently verify the circumstances.
  • If someone claims the only acceptable form of payment is a money transfer, that’s a red flag.
  • If you receive a check and are asked to wire back a portion of the funds, it’s a scam.
  • If someone claims you won a lottery or contest but must first wire any type of payment, it is not legitimate.
  • If you think you’ve been victimized by a money transfer scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftc.gov or call 877-382-4357.
  • If you have questions or would like to report a scam to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, contact us:

Miller reminds Iowans that no representatives of Western Union, federal or state government agencies, or settlement administrators, will call consumers to seek or “verify” personal information regarding the Western Union settlement, or request fees for payment. Miller urges any Iowan who receives such a call to hang up.

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