Western Union Will Pay $586 Million to Settle Federal Charges
What is this case about?
The FTC reached a settlement with Western Union in January 2017. The FTC and Western Union agreed to settle charges that massive fraud payments flowed through Western Union’s money transfer system for many years that the company could have prevented. According to the FTC’s lawsuit, scammers falsely told people they could win cash prizes, get a job being a “secret shopper,” get deep discounts on expensive items online, or needed to help a friend or relative in trouble. In each case, the scammers tricked people into sending money via Western Union, and people who sent their money lost it and could not get it back. In many cases, some Western Union agents, who were complicit in these schemes, processed the fraud payments in return for a cut of the proceeds. According to the lawsuit, even in the face of evidence that many of its own agents were involved in the frauds, Western Union did not properly address the problem, and pocketed a lot of cash.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) also entered into a deferred prosecution agreement to settle a criminal investigation into Western Union involving fraud. In the agreement, Western Union admits to criminally aiding and abetting wire fraud and violations of the Bank Secrecy Act.
Western Union has agreed to forfeit $586 million to the government to settle the FTC’s and DOJ’s charges. The Department of Justice will handle the process to return money to people who lost it, called remission. To get the money, DOJ must file four complaints, called civil forfeiture complaints, in different district courts. Only after those cases are finished can DOJ start returning the money to people who lost it.
What is remission?
Remission is the process for returning funds to victims. Once the process begins, as explained below, you can file a Petition for Remission giving details on how much you lost. DOJ’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section will examine the claims and determine whether your petition will be granted. When the petition review process is finished, everyone with an approved petition will get payment for at least some of their loss.
You can read more about the remission process for assets forfeited by the DOJ, which is governed by 28 Code of Federal Regulations Part 9, specifically 9.8.
Has the Western Union remission process started?
What is the deadline to file a Petition for Remission?
How do I file a Petition for Remission?
Who is eligible to file a Petition for Remission?
You may be eligible for a remission payment if you sent a money transfer through Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017, and were the victim of fraud. There will be more information about eligibility, and it will be posted on this site when available.
Do I need to pay anything to file a petition or get a remission payment?
Absolutely not. Neither the Department of Justice nor the Federal Trade Commission will ever ask you to pay to file a petition or to get a payment. Never pay anyone who promises you a refund in exchange for a fee. If someone asks you to pay to get your refund from Western Union, tell the FTC immediately.
When will I get a payment?
After the Department of Justice’s remission process starts later in 2017, it will still take some time—potentially a year or more—to process and verify people’s claims, and determine who is eligible to get a payment. Check westernunionremission.com for updates on the status of the process and updated information.
What will I need to do to get a payment?
When the process begins, you must file a Petition for Remission to be considered for a payment. If you already reported your loss, you might get a petition pre-filled with your claim information. You must then return the petition online or mail it to the claims administrator. If you don’t get a pre-filled petition, you can get a blank Petition for Remission from the claims administrator at westernunionremission.com when they become available.
If you already reported your loss to Western Union, the company should have your information in its database. If you’re worried it’s not there, you can contact Western Union to be sure:1-800-448-1492 or online. If you have paperwork related to your money transfers, keep it in case you need to submit it during the remission process.
Am I eligible for remission if I did not report the fraud to Western Union?
Yes, if you file a petition when the process opens, and you meet the other eligibility requirements.
What kinds of scams are covered by these refunds?
A wide variety of scams may be covered by this settlement, including:
- Online or Internet scams – you did not receive the items you tried to buy online
- Lottery or prize promotion scams – you were told you won a lottery or sweepstakes, but never got the prize
- Emergency or grandparent scams – you sent money to someone pretending to be a relative or friend in urgent need of money
- Advance-fee loan scams – you paid upfront fees, but did not get the promised loans
- Online dating or romance scams – you sent money to someone who created a fake profile on a dating or social networking website.
If you sent a money transfer through Western Union and you believe you were the victim of one of these scams, you may be eligible for a return of at least some of your money.
I lost money to one of those scams. Will I definitely get my money back?
Each person’s petition will have to be verified as a real loss to a scam via a Western Union money transfer. Based on that information, DOJ will work to determine who is eligible, and to divide the money among the people with verified losses. The amount you get will depend on how much you lost, the number of people who file petitions, and the total losses in the petitions that are approved.
I already reported my loss to Western Union, the FTC, or my state. Is that all I need to do?
If you have paperwork related to your money transfers, keep it in case you need it for the claims process. Otherwise, there’s nothing you need to do right now. To be sure you are notified when the time comes, you can sign up for email updates.
I sent money a few times to a scam. Can I file a petition for all of those transfers?
Yes. If you sent multiple money transfers related to a scam, you can file claims for all the money transfers that occurred between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017.
I don’t have my paperwork anymore. Can I still file a petition?
Yes. If you were the victim of fraud and sent your money through Western Union, you should still file a claim, even if you don’t have paperwork related to your money transfer. You may still be eligible for a payment.
My parents lost money in a money transfer scam. Can I file a petition for them?
Everyone must file his/her own petition. However, if you represent an estate or have power of attorney for your parent(s), you can provide those documents along with the petition. When the petition process opens, there will be more details on how to file on behalf of someone else.
How much money will I get back?
If you are eligible, the payment amount will depend on the amount of money you sent through Western Union. You probably won’t get back the full amount you paid. The amount will depend on how much you lost, the number of people who file petitions, and the total losses in the petitions that are approved.
Only the amount you transferred via Western Union is eligible for refund. Other expenses like Western Union fees, other losses, or transfers sent through other businesses are not eligible for refund.
Where can I get more information?
For the latest information about remission process: