January 17, 2018
20th Judicial District
District Attorney Michael Dougherty
Community Protection Division: 303-441-3700
Consumer Alert from District Attorney Stan Garnett
(Boulder County, Colo.) -- Victims of a wide variety of scams who paid scammers through Western Union wire transfers may be able to recover their losses by submitting a claim to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Consumers who sent money to scammers through Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017 can submit a claim. Consumers may submit a claim even if they did not report the fraud to Western Union, and even if they do not have complete documentation of their losses.
To submit a claim online, go to www.ftc.gov/wu, or submit a claim by mail to: United States v. The Western Union Company, P.O. Box 404027, Louisville, KY 40233-4027. The deadline to submit a claim is February 12, 2018; claim forms must be submitted online or postmarked on or before that date.
For years, many people who lost money to scams sent payments via Western Union wire transfers. Scammers told those they contacted to send money through Western Union and received payment up front, but victims never received the money, prizes or services they were promised. Because of joint investigations by the FTC, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service into these scams, Western Union agreed to pay $586 million to reimburse victims. DOJ is now using that money to provide refunds to people who were tricked into using Western Union to pay scammers.
What kinds of scams are covered by the refunds? A wide variety of scams may now be covered, provided the victim wired money through Western Union. Some of the more common scams include:
- Online or internet scams -- consumers did not receive items bought online
- Lottery or prize promotion scams -- consumers were told they won a lottery or sweepstakes, but never got the prize
- Emergency or grandparent scams -- consumers sent money to someone pretending to be a relative or friend in urgent need of money
- Advance-fee loan scams -- consumers paid up-front fees, but did not get the promised loans
- Online dating or romance scams -- consumers sent money to someone who created a fake profile on a dating or social networking website.
What happens when a claim is submitted? Once a claim is submitted, DOJ will attempt to verify it. If a claim is verified, the consumer should receive some money back, depending on how much was lost and the number of people who submit valid claims. Only amounts transferred via Western Union are eligible for refunds. Other expenses such as Western Union fees, other losses, or transfers sent through other businesses are not eligible for a refund. According to the FTC, it may take up to a year to process and verify claims and determine who is eligible to receive a payment. For more information about the claims process, go to www.westernunionremission.com or call 1-844-319-2124.
Additional Advice from the District Attorney's Office: if you are ever asked to wire money, keep in mind that it is illegal for telemarketers to ask you to pay with a wire transfer. Scammers love using money transfer services because once you send the money, it is likely gone forever. So if anyone asks you to wire money, STOP: IT MAY BE A SCAM. If you are suspicious, report the caller to the FTC at ftc.gov and to the Community Protection Division at (303) 441-3700.