National settlement website releases payment info; victims of certain scams who wired money through Western Union from 2004 through Jan. 19, 2017 may be eligible
DES MOINES – Attorney General Tom Miller urges Iowans who lost money to certain types of scams through Western Union wire transfers to apply for refunds through a newly-announced national refund process.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that it has begun sending remission forms to a half-million potential victims, and has launched a website for scam victims to apply for refunds, following a $586 million settlement that the Justice Department, along with the Federal Trade Commission, reached with The Western Union Company in January.
Victims have three months to submit claims.
Western Union Admitted to Facilitating International Fraud Schemes
As part of a federal deferred prosecution agreement, Western Union admitted it illegally processed hundreds of thousands of international wire transfers for criminals who posed as family members in need, or promised prizes or job opportunities. The scammers directed victims to wire money through Western Union.
Various Western Union agents were complicit in these fraud schemes, often processing the fraud payments in return for a cut of the fraud proceeds.
“Because of all the calls our office has fielded over the years from Iowans who lost money to fraudsters through Western Union wire transfers, we hope that everyone eligible for a refund gets their fair share,” Miller said. “I encourage Iowans defrauded by scammers who collected through Western Union to apply for money through this federal settlement.”
Consumers eligible for refunds must have sent a Western Union wire transfer to a recipient who committed certain types of frauds between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017. The scams generally include:
- Online or internet scams: the consumer wired money but did not receive the purchased merchandise
- Lottery or prize promotion scams: the victim wired money to someone who claimed to process the supposed winnings
- Emergency or grandparent scam: the victim wired money to someone pretending to be a relative or friend in urgent need of money
- Advance-fee loan scam: the consumer wired upfront fees but did not receive the loan
- Online dating scam: the victim wired money to someone who created a fake profile on a dating or social networking website
Eligible consumers must apply for refunds by filling out a remission form available at www.westernunionremission.com or by calling 844-319-2124. The refund request deadline is February 12.
Consumers eligible for a refund are not required to have previously filed a complaint with local, state or federal authorities.
The settlement administrator will review each consumer claim to determine eligibility and refund amounts. Refund amounts will depend on the number of verified claims and approved losses.
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, including nearly $54,000 to Iowa.
Consumer Tips for Wire Transfers
- In these types of frauds, scammers use the phone to 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.