CTSI urges victims of scams who used Western Union to claim a refund
British consumers who lost money to scams which used Western Union wire transfers can file to claim their money back until 31 May 2018, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has learned.
The deadline for consumers who fell victim to scammers using Western Union transfers between 1 January 2004 and 18 January 2017 has been extended by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Joint investigations of Western Union by the FTC, the US Department of Justice and the US Postal Inspection Service led to an estimated £428 million settlement, to be used to reimburse people who were tricked into using Western Union to pay scammers. As part of the scheme, criminals contacted people and promised prizes, loans, jobs, discounted products or other financial rewards in exchange for money upfront. They also pretended to be family members in need of cash or law enforcement officers demanding payment. The scammers told people to send money through Western Union.
CTSI Lead Officer for Consumer Education, Louise Baxter, said: "Thousands of people lost out to scams where Western Union was used to make payments. It's not often that scams victims have the chance to recover their money, so this settlement with the Federal Trading Commission is a great triumph for justice and consumer protection, and all UK victims should take advantage of this opportunity."
Service Director at the UK European Consumer Centre, Andy Allen, said: "Although we don't get many enquiries from UK consumers regarding Western Union, if someone has lost money it can affect those individuals deeply. Often the enquiries we get involve consumers sending money outside of the EU. In these cases, if appropriate, we signpost consumers to other agencies such as Action Fraud or the Financial Ombudsman Service.
"The sad reality is that in most cases which actually involve a scam, once you have fallen victim to a scammer, the money is gone and there's nothing you can do to get it back. For victims this may be a chance to recover some of it. There are no guarantees, but we strongly encourage UK consumers to claim by the deadline."
Examples of information requests the UK European Consumer Centre has received over the 13-year period are:
- A UK consumer's husband sent £410 by Western Union to his brother in India, but the money was picked up by someone in Egypt. A UK consumer bought games consoles from an online website, paying by Western Union, but did not receive the goods.
- A UK consumer paid 180 US Dollars to a US company, via Western Union, for a mobile phone. The company he was buying from then asked for a further 180 US Dollars, saying that Chinese customs wanted it in order to release the phone.
- A UK consumer paid £350 by Western Union to an individual in the US for three mobile phones. When challenged, the consumer said that the 'seller' openly admitted to being a 'con artist'.
If you believe you were the victim of a scam using Western Union between the above dates, you can submit a claim with the FTC. The form requests a U.S. social security number, however non-U.S. citizens can leave this section blank.
Notes for Editors
Victims can file a claim with the FTC here: https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds/western-union-settlement-faqs
Useful guide on how to file a claim for Western Union
For media enquiries or further information, contact:
Eleni Chalkidou, CTSI Director of Communications
Press Office 01268 582240 or firstname.lastname@example.org