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If you run a business that offers people a way to send money to other people, you may want to pay attention to whether your service is catering to fraudsters. It’s an important message because, for many years, money transfers have been a preferred payment method for scammers, who know that they can pick up the cash and disappear. And it’s a message some companies apparently need to hear twice.

Back in 2009, the FTC sued MoneyGram for failing to address fraud-induced money transfers in its system. It’s a big system: MoneyGram offers its services to consumers worldwide through a network of agent locations – currently numbering about 350,000. And it was a lot of fraud: more than $84 million in consumer losses from 2004 to 2008. The FTC charged that MoneyGram knew its system was being used for fraud but did very little about it, and that some agents actually participated in the fraud.

In 2017, we brought a case against MoneyGram’s main competitor, Western Union, which paid $586 million to settle very similar charges.

For a 2018 encore, we’ve dragged MoneyGram back to the stage, this time for failing to live up to its end of the deal it struck in 2009. That settlement required MoneyGram to beef up its anti-fraud measures, such as by: (1) implementing a comprehensive anti-fraud program to protect consumers; (2) conducting due diligence on prospective agents; (3) investigating problematic agents and disciplining or terminating them as appropriate; and (4) sharing consumer complaints with the FTC.

Which of those things did MoneyGram fail to accomplish fully? All of them, says the FTC. As a result, scammers kept using MoneyGram’s system to collect millions of dollars from victims. You can read more about it in the FTC’s new court filing, but here are a few glaring examples:

  • Its electronic system for spotting and blocking fraud-induced transfers suffered serious technical problems for a year and a half, resulting in even greater consumer losses.
  • It hired agents who had been terminated from Western Union for their role in fraud-induced money transfers.
  • It didn’t properly investigate or discipline agents who were responsible for high volumes of fraud complaints. In fact, MoneyGram had different standards for when to take disciplinary action against large “chain” agents with 10 or more locations, allowing the company to focus its disciplinary efforts instead on lower-volume “mom and pop” agents.
  • It didn’t record all of the consumer complaints it received and didn’t share all of the complaints it did record with the FTC.

Even without a sophisticated – and fully operable -- anti-fraud system, the fraud in MoneyGram’s system was not exactly hidden from its view. The FTC’s court filing says that “[i]nformation contained in MoneyGram’s own records demonstrates that it has been aware for years of high levels of fraud and suspicious activities involving particular agents.” Annual consumer fraud complaints to MoneyGram more than doubled between 2012 to 2016. These complaints were also highly concentrated: in the last five-plus years, under 4% of MoneyGram’s agents received five or more fraud complaints, but those agents accounted for over 84% of all fraud complaints.

Now MoneyGram has committed, in a revised order, to address its deficiencies and improve its anti-fraud program. It will need to block transfers of known fraudsters and provide refunds to people when agents haven’t complied with applicable policies and procedures. It will also pay $125 million in refunds to consumers who used MoneyGram to pay a scammer. (We should note that, in this matter as well as the past action against Western Union, the FTC was joined by the Department of Justice, which resolved parallel criminal actions.)

When people send money using a money transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union, it’s not free. The sender pays a fee to the company each time. So the more people use the service, the more money the company makes. That’s as it should be. But when the company looks the other way while the service is being used to commit fraud, while continuing to rake in fees for those illegal transfers, that’s a problem.

A more general take-away from this case? If you know your company’s services are being exploited to defraud consumers, it’s not just their problem. It’s not just the government’s problem. It’s yours.

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

william gray
November 08, 2018
I use MoneyGram to transfer funds to friends in Jamaica ! No fraudulent activity! I get caught up in MoneyGram & it’s agents rechecking before they release my funds, it’s a great inconvenience and time consuming! I would suggest you create a list of approved transactions that are above board and proven to be non fraudulent accounts:
James E Dal Cerro
November 08, 2018
I was scammed out of money by a man named David West posing as a FedEx employee and he got me for money.
November 13, 2018

In reply to by James E Dal Cerro

I too was scammed. Did some translation work and instead of being paid, I was the payor. I would like to see this company clean up it's act. I will never send anything else through them until they do.
Cici Williams
November 09, 2018
Thank you FTC for doing what you do best! You are a great agency and I respect for what you do and that is for the consumers. I use Western Union all the times to send money to families and there is no fraud on my end. But what I don't appreciates are the agent/employees of the agent taking calls to supposedly to help the customers, they are rude, they lie, when ask to speak to a supervisor they ask you why or that your questions or concerns doesn't elevate to a supervisor's level. I was shocked to hear that, in the USA when a customer asks for a supervisor, American Customer Service transfer the call. Also I tried to contact Western Union corporate office to report the conduct, you get the run around and stuck in their 1-800. It is almost like they don't care to hear from you or what is going on. I am so HAPPY that both companies got what they deserve and how they were not protecting the customers.
Sandra Barrow
November 21, 2018
I would like to see an official roster of The FTC agents I am looking for agent Mike Thomas in regards to Golden Jackpot Las Vegas sweepstakes to see if this award is true asking for insurance fee of 1987.00 dollars
FTC Staff
November 26, 2018

In reply to by Sandra Barrow

People who work at the FTC are not called agents. There isn't anyone named "Mike Thomas" working at the FTC. It sounds like you talked to someone who is pretending to be a federal government employee.

Scammers sometimes pretend to be government officials to get you to send money. They might say you'll get a prize if you pay “taxes” or a fee. Don’t send money. Federal government agencies and federal employees don’t ask people to send money for prizes.

Federal employees aren't allowed to ask you to wire money, or add money to a prepaid debit card.

Derek DePaola
December 27, 2018
Some one called me said they are with the government and said they will put a warrant out for my arrest if I don’t pay them money and sent them 1800 already and more reasons why I need to send more is it a scam???
FTC Staff
December 27, 2018

In reply to by Derek DePaola

That sounds like a scam. Criminals call people and pretend to be government workers. They threaten people and tell them to send money. You don't have to send money. If you send money once, they will keep calling and telling you to send more. And don't tell them your bank account or credit card number.

You can look up the real phone number for the government agency or office the caller said he was from. Call the real agency and ask them if they want to talk to you. Then call the FTC to report it: 1-877-382-4357.

Toni Harris
February 08, 2020

In reply to by Derek DePaola

Yes its a scam it has been going on for some time now. No one calls to tell you that you have a warrant nor asks for money over the phone. You will receive a certified letter and or a sheriff will come to your address if you ever have a warrant. THIS IS DEFINITELY A SCAM!!
Frequent flyer
January 28, 2019
I’m a slow learner and don’t know when the first time I was scammed was.!i can say for sure that the last time was over two years ago now. Now I’m like a pit bull with these creeps and not only don’t buy into anything but will post information anywhere and anytime I can. If I can prevent one sc I’ve done something. So please beware! The FTC is the only help that is front and center for you to access anytime. We could certainly use more help but doubt that will ever happen in this country anymore. For any Doubters out there? Walk into one of your Walmart’s and see how easy it is to still send via Moneygram! On second thought!!! Don’t!!!
Charlene Bessette
March 27, 2019
Thank you to all whom brought moneygram down, and cant wait to hear when they have b UK stef a fraud ring. I'm still receiving fake money orders,and the last was a car wrap scam. Please let me know when this is ready for refunds,as I could truly love my monies returned. Again, thanks so much to Karen Dodge for all you do.
August 22, 2019
I sent myself £2000 to be collected for my holiday to Thailand and pick up in Thailand in cash. I went to collect the money and was told it had already been received. Now 11 months on and constant arguing with them and being left in Thailand within no money to stay I ended up being imprisoned and deported back to he uk because they gave all my money to someone else. I have made several complains and been to the police etc. They just read off a computer my case is closed. 4 months in prison and nearly died and still not been given my money back
December 17, 2019
My MoneyGram scams began in 2011

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