$586 million Western Union settlement: Be careful about the company your company keeps

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“For many years, Western Union’s money transfer system has been used by fraudsters around the world to obtain money from their victims.” That’s how the FTC’s complaint against Western Union opens – and it tells a compelling story of a corporation the FTC says knew that massive fraud was afoot and had the ability to address it, but chose to look the other way. It didn’t end there because according to the lawsuit, even in the face of obvious evidence that many of its own agents were complicit, Western Union ignored it while pocketing massive cash. The global $586 million settlement, which also resolves separate Justice Department criminal investigations into the company’s failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program in violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, sounds a cautionary note for other businesses to consider the company they keep. 

Many people use Western Union’s money transfer system to send money to family and friends, but Western Union also was a fan favorite of crooks and con artists around the world. According to the lawsuit, the company’s own in-house data documented that. 

For example, between 2004 and 2015, Western Union received 146,909 complaints about bogus online purchases, totaling at least $187 million in losses. Fraudulent lotteries accounted for another 75,543 complaints, totaling $86 million in losses. And those “Wire money to get me out of jail!” scams that target unsuspecting family members generated 41,897 complaints and at least $73 million in losses.

Of Western Union’s total network of 515,000 agents, the FTC says a small number account for the vast majority of consumer complaints. You’ll want to read the complaint for details, but here’s just one example. In 2012, Mexico had 17,710 Western Union agent locations, but 137 – less than 1% of them – accounted for more than 80% of the reported fraud. And those are stats based on Western Union’s own documents.

Sky-high consumer complaint rates were just the start. Thirty-nine Western Union agents have been charged in the U.S. and Canada for crimes like mail fraud, wire fraud, or money laundering, with more than 100 arrested by law enforcement agencies in other countries. Some were prosecuted for being in cahoots with con artists. Others were charged with setting up their own scams.

But even in the face of consumer complaints, criminal prosecutions, a 2005 settlement with AGs from 47 states and the District of Columbia, a 2009 FTC action against competitor MoneyGram, and warnings from the U.S. Secret Service and authorities in Canada, Japan, the U.K., Spain, and elsewhere, the FTC says it was business as usual for Western Union. In certain countries where Western Union was at a particularly high risk for use by criminals – Nigeria, for example – Western Union had rarely, if ever, terminated an agent for fraud as of October 2015.

Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that despite what Western Union knew, it failed to take prompt action against agents with high levels of consumer fraud, didn’t conduct adequate background checks of prospective new agents or those up for contract renewal, didn’t adequately train and monitor its agents, and failed to adequately record consumer fraud complaints. In addition to violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the FTC alleges that Western Union’s failure to take timely, appropriate, and effective action in the face of fraud-induced money transfers was an unfair trade practice.

The settlement imposes the $586 million payment and requires Western Union to put a comprehensive A-to-Z anti-fraud program in place, complete with meaningful training and monitoring to protect consumers in the future. The order also prohibits the company from transmitting a money transfer it knows – or reasonably should know – is fraud-induced. In addition, Western Union will have block money transfers to anyone who is the subject of a fraud report, provide clear and conspicuous warnings to consumers, make it easier for consumers to report fraud, and refund a fraudulently-induced money transfer if the company failed to comply with its anti-fraud procedures.

Two related reminders:

  1. The FTC amended the Telemarketing Sales Rule recently to ban telemarketers’ use of pet payment methods favored by fraudsters, including cash-to-cash transfers like the kind offered by Western Union. 
  2. The scope of the FTC Act is broad. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf and take consumer complaints seriously. Don’t dither when you have reason to smell a rat.
     

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NOTE FROM THE FTC ADDED ON JANUARY 8, 2018.  If you are a consumer with questions about the refund process in the Western Union case, please visit the FTC’s Western Union refund page for more information. Also, we have a new post on our Consumer Blog that addresses issues that may be on your mind.
 

 

Comments

Go here: https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds/western-union-settlement-faqs

Good luck!

I was recently (1/25/17) a victim of fraud through Western Union. I reported it to Western Union Fraud Department - a report was issued. I was also told to report the loss of over $3000. to the police and my bank. Which they are investigating. The thief attempted to take and additional $3700. but was denied. The money was sent to the Dominican Republic. I closed my account immediately and then requested Western Union to send me a printout for the last 6 months. I was told I had to request this in writing. Which I did - yesterday I received an Email from Western Union asking me to fill out a form and send them a copy of my drivers license or passport or other forms of ID. Now, the police and bank have told they this looked like "Inside -fraud". There is NO way I am sending this company a drivers license or any form of ID. When you call them you get the run around - and are put on hold- which is a joke - they put the phone down. All the calls are answered -off Shore (Philippine's). So, twice when I had request to talk to a supervisor - I waited over 20 minutes -hearing laughter, talking, loud talking -not in English. Now, here is the surprising response I got when I asked for the phone number to the Corporate office. OH, Miss Angela we DON'T have the information!!! I asked now is that possible???? Even the people answering the phones are crooks. This was 6 days after the $586M settlement. They sure didn't stop!!!

Same thing happened to me when I contacted them. I sent them an email requesting a copy of my money transfer history. They asked for my driver's license and the form. Then they asked me to resubmit the form because the signature didn't match what's on my driver's license. Then they asked me to send a copy of my current address (like a bill or something). I told them that I didn't appreciate their stall tactics and that my address on my driver's license was not only recent (renewed in October 2017), but my signature matched. Then I called them a day later and spoke with a really sneaky agent. He asked why I was requesting this info and I told him it was for my lawyer who's suing the bank that I had during that time period. Since he wasn't satisfied with that answer, he then asked me if I had received anything from Western Union lately to which I responded no (which was true but I knew why he was asking... he was probably going to try to stall my request even further). All of this back and forth nonsense took 30 days to complete. Just unbelievable!

Go here to request a copy of your transfer history if you don't have the MTCN: https://wucare.westernunion.com/care/s/submit-customer-case?language=en_US

Go here if you do have a copy of your MTCN: https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds/western-union-settlement-faqs

This company should be closed forever. Transferred money back on September 30th 2016. Now close to 5 months i've been told my money is going to be returned in 14 business day via check. Then i was told that Wester Union needs my bank statement, then i was told that WU needs my bank fax number to communicate to them that is ok to transfer the money to my account. next i was told that my funds will be returned to my bank account the same way i proceeded with the original transaction. Then i was told that a customer service representative (from philippines) was going to contact me, personally, to my personal cell phone to let me know what is the status of my cancelled transaction, then i was told that a special resolution department, a department that can be contacted only by e-mail will be in contact with me in 24 to 48 hours. i mean, i've spend over 1000 hours on the phone every time i call these thiefs and at this point i don't know how to proceed.
Can someone let me know if they received any refunds from these scam artists at all?

A victim of fraud for 3500.00 how do I get my money back

Michael Smith
DCI Career Institute - Monaca Campus
I was defrauded through Western Union by sending money to secure a loan, I remember send money per phone instructions at the western union in Shop n Save , in Canonsburg , Pa 2011. I sent it to a Western Union agent in India who's name I was given during the phone call. How can I get refunded please?

For consumers with questions about refunds, here is the latest information. The Department of Justice (not the FTC) is developing a refund procedure.  We will post more information as soon as we have it. For now, if you used Western Union to send money to a scammer, you can report it to Western Union’s complaint department by calling 1-800-448-1492 or contacting Western Union online (link is external). Keep a record of the date you filed your complaint with Western Union and hold on to any documents you have about the scam and the money transfer.

I sent 500,00 for a loan through western union then they wanted more money for taxes when a losn is tax free. They took my momey i neecmy money back from western union for not checking these companies plus have a return policy if u get fraud

I submitted a complaint to Western Union and informed them i lost a large sum of money. This agency is dispicable and a fraud themselves. I have been blocked by them and yet they are one committing the crimes. The agents lack customer service, though I have had some pleasant ones but not many. I hope I to get every dime back that was taken.

I got scamed too. I had no idea that these people consider this to be a family business. I actually thought i was a sick child that needed meds and food. This happen to me twice until i couldn't send anything and the person got upset and that made me think something was wrong. I did this with two different people. Sending money for a year with each one. I am more careful now. I just had no idea.

I have been defrauded by scammers using western union, how do i go about filing my claim?

The U.S. Department of Justice is developing a refund procedure. We (the FTC) will post more information as soon as we have it. For now, if you used Western Union to send money to a scammer, you can report it to Western Union’s complaint department by calling (800) 448-1492. Be sure to note the date you filed your complaint with Western Union and keep any documents you have about the scam and the money transfer.

 

I lost 800 dollars to this scam or african lottery, how do i go about getting compensate?

Can the US Embassy put a hold on funds being sent via Banco Azteca Western Union? My sister received 7 MTCN codes and can't be tracked via Western Union? It states that funds will not be available until 3/1/2017.

I lost $1400.00 to a Nigerian scammer in 2009. I want my money back.

You should all blame your self to fall victim to scams. But what western union new about they should be convict accordingly.

This should apply to Money Gram as well!!!! I got scammed out of $2k!!!

I lost $2000 by sending money through western union as i was told to do so i was send 5 certify cheques from CIBC cashed and send only $2000 as i was told and then i caught on.This is how it works -some one call me about a secret shopper job and told me that she want me to go to western Union and send this money and observed the the service i did the first 22 transaction and then it did not look right /i immediately contact the bank and the police and i would not stop until this is done -i was told by the investigator that i can get my money back

Western Union continues to be a company without scruples. They seem to be happy to be the middle man for scammers and thieves. They have not changed anything to safeguard consumers. I have filed both phone and online complaints and have heard nothing. My local Sheriff's Department will not even bother trying to penetrate their stone wall because they remain uncooperative. FTC, please consider putting them out of business because they are no better than the fraudsters they serve.

I too was scammed and used Western Union. To you who want to call us stupid - these scammers are good. Please quit piling on more shame, we already know we were stupid. You could better help by informing those that don't know about these scams. Peace and blessings!

Agreed! I ALMOST got scammed out of 1,000 by a man in Mexico (pretending to be a world traveler) who sent me a cashiers check for counseling services he planned to obtain from me while visiting Nevada. The check was " accidentally" a huge overpayment, so then he asked me to wire him the refund thru Western Union. He really talked a good game, and I could see how many smart people could fall for a scam like that. Being trusting of other human beings is a virtue and nothing to be ashamed of. Of course, it's best temper trust with a heavy dose of caution and vigilance, but that is easier said than done if we are being expertly manipulated. The people who should be ashamed of theimselves are the predators! Karma will catch them, even if the police don't.

Nearly two years ago in July 2015 I was encountered by an individual in Accra, Ghana via the Internet dating site Christian Mingle and corresponded with this person for one week during which I received pirated photos of porn actress Janessa Brazil under the name "Vicentia Inkum" along with some poignant tales of Love, A hospitalized Mother with cancer and the need for money with all the usual pleas attached and like a fool I believed it at the price of $600 cash via WU, Soon after which I became suspicious and all was confirmed after some research and I discovered that Ms Brazil's photos and stories I was told "Vicentia" were Classic Scammer Tactics, I quickly messaged back and informed my Ghanaian friend that "The Jig Is Up" and not to contact me anymore, Thankfully I kept the receipts from the transactions and submitted them to WU along with the Amounts Paid, The Dates and Routing Numbers and am hoping and praying that my money comes back, Sometimes You Have To Lose To Win.

I also fell for a help a friend scam in 2016, and this year I fell for an investment/work-at-home scam. I feel that I should receive my money back. The scammer from this year is still contacting me to give him more money.

I lost $35,000 with scammer in Ghana in 2009.

On November 2016 my rent check ($675.00) that was mailed to my landlord was somehow stolen, forged, and cashed out. I went through this ridiculously lengthy process of sending in a certified affidavit to report the fraud. They received the affidavit on 12/7/16 but claimed to have processed it on 12/29/16. Nonetheless, I was advised that THE BANK OF FIRST DEPOSIT would investigate for up to 120 days, that gave them a deadline of April 29, 2017. I called 5 times and finally they told me the Banknof First Deposit never replied and they resubmitted the claim, I was told I would have to wait another 30 days. I have spoken with 5 agents, I have 2 claim numbers, they refuse to connect me with the fraud dept, nor a supervisor. These people will continue to give me the run around til I give up and they never have to pay me back my money. What can i do????????

still waiting for feed back on My claim 10,200.00 for Secret shopper scam. submitted Police reports E T C. Western union. W U Claims case with U S has been settled for 586 million . the money should be getting disburse...??

The United States Department of Justice (not the FTC) is developing the refund procedure for the Western Union case.  As soon as we hear details from DOJ, we will post them.

My elderly parents were scammed for a lot of money. They live on a very fixed budget. I just found out about this today. Is there anyone that will still help them? I called the Attorney Generals office but their deadline has past. Please let me know if there is any help for them.

We lost $2,000 in 2008 to a scam regarding a car purchase. We'd sure like that back. Looking forward to the refund information. Is there a website contact list I can get on for updates?

WESTERN UNION WON'T ALLOW MY MONEY TRANSFERS TO COMPLETE UNTIL I ANSWER NUMEROUS VERY PERSONAL QUESTIONS ABOUT MYSELF AND THE RECIPIENT. ONE EVEN WANTED ME TO MAIL HIM COPIES OF MY BANK RECORDS.

I was recently scammed out of 2700 dollars by someone sent the money through Western Union. I want it back.

I too have been scammed over $43,000 from someone who said he was a soldier overseas and that he was stranded and then he got in trouble with his plane I had to pay for repairs on the plane and the money was going to bank people who had Western Union at the bank and therefore they didn't need any ID to receive the money so the banks in Nigeria are also corrupt and are receiving money via Western Union for the scammers.... and yes how do I go about getting my money back???

I was scammed from 2006 to 2008 by a Nigerian in Benin City. Lost approximately 20,000 to him. Just recently found out about this lawsuit settlement is it late to submit a claim?

I have lost money in the amount of $800 dollars. I have talked with customer service, but have been dismissed because they say I received my money. But, I have the original receipts and letters proving I have not. This was money for my mortgage. I will not use this service again, but I would like to get my money back. I believe that when dealing with this company that their own customer clerks have collected this money and made it disappear in the system.

I was victim of the scam. before I got a chance to sent the western union i was called by the bank and told to return the money. I didn't have it all and was charged with theft by deception. this singular event ruined my entire life.

I sent 3 million cfa via western union to buy guns and déposé a dictator but I was betrayed and the dictator took the money .

He now has a shiny new maybach and lives like P Diddy in west Africa

How do I get my money back ?

Don't buy money order from western union or payomatic it's best to use your post office payomatic and western union thieves,scammer I can't even get back a refund for an uncashed money orders. This company is a waste i hope they close down.

I on Aug 2, 2017 sent a payment to KIA Finance, and was issued an error message C9999 to try again later. I tried again later and got the MTCN number. I went on my account to reconcile my funds and they took the money out of my account. I have spoken and fought for 13 days and still no refund to my account even though it was their error and their web site who made the error. The supervisor told me that it happen to thousands of people.

My 83-year old brother was a subject to this type of fraud just last month. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and convinced him to seek his money back before it was too late. He was able to retrieve his funds before they were collected by the criminals. All he had to pay was about $40 for processing fees.

Evidently, this settlement has also caused WU to essentially stop processing transfers to Mexico, at least if they involve a substantial amount of money. My most recent experience is ordering a transaction online on 9/13/2017 and then (only when I called to ask why my recipient couldn't pick it up) was told it was under review. This was inspite of the fact that the website said that the funds are "available" for the recipiento pick up. Multiple attempts to find out more from the Compliance Department led nowhere because I was put on hold for 60 minutes or more and the phone was never answered. 3 weeks later I received a request for a copy of the recipient's ID, to which I responded within 24 hours. Immediately they sent me an automated response saying they would get back to me within two hours. Three days later I am still waiting, so I called and asked to cancel the transaction, which they would not do until I talked to the Compliance Department. So I finally called the corporate switchboard for an "escalated customer service representative." They told me the executive resolution department was too busy to talk to me and would call back within 2 days. She also agreed to get a Compliance representative on the line and call me back, which did happen. I was then able to cancel the transaction. I think at a minimum the company should put a notice on their website that transactions are subject to an indefinite delay while they perform their due diligence and that the customer should not expect the money to be available in any particular time frame. They should also amend their process so that the funds do not show as available when they are not. Perhaps they should just get out of this business altogether.

I lost $1980 in a scam in June 2015. Is it possible to still make a claim in this settlement?

My father just passed away this past July. We have every Western Union he sent to the people in Nigeria about he would receive money from a deceased family member. Could my mother still pursue with the lawsuit with all the receipt from the Western Union in my father's behalf.

I was a victim if a dating scamfrom 2015 to January2017. I lost aprox.20, 000 dollars. It wasn't until I was in the scam for almost a year that western union put a block up. When ask why they never told me. I feel is they had it would have saved me thousands of dollars. The guy was supposed to be from Nigeria.

My wife was scammed for $1,800 for a work at home position in 2010. She received a check, deposited it then used Western Union to send the money to the scammers. We contacted the police but were told they couldn’t do anything and Western Unions customer service said they couldn’t do anything. Do we have the ability to finally recuperate the money we lost?

I wired transferred money to this company close to 2,000 dollars and they ripped me off I got and attorney and they never help me cauSe the money was wire transfer by western union. I hope you could help me out.

I got a letter in mail about this lawsuit and how to file for it but the one thing they ask for is a SS number and after already been frauded once I am leery to comply.

I lost defrauded out of $800 with the use of Western Union. Then I go online and search the name affiliated with the person that defrauded me and there were websites dedicated to others that were defrauded by the same person with the same name. Seemed like this individual was able to use this one alias to defraud many many victims. I of course filed a report with Western Union and also filed a police report to no avail. It seems like there wasn't any action that was taken against the fraudsters identity by Western Union by the time it was my turn to get scammed.

I was scammed twice, first time 900.00 publisher claring house , second woman in Nigeria, for total 2800.00, I am on social security, we all dream of winning alot of money, anything will help, thank you

I too was a victim of a metropolitan Ministries suppose Lottery scam back in 2005. Same thing I reported it and the police said there was nothing they could do except make copies of the receipts. I see that I'm getting a settlement for the most recent scam that I was in a victim of but what about this one? I lost $2,200

I was scammed via facebook. Someone copied a friend of mines profile and messaged me about him winning a lottery and that I had won too. He talked just like my friend. I talked to him for 2 days before I finally beleived him. Another person from the bs lottery commision began messaging me and had a fake front. It was the most convincing, elaborate scheme I have ever seen. I grew up being taught never to give money to get money. Its the truth..NEVER GIVE MONEY TO NOT GET ANY. I got scammed out of $800.

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