One of the automatic hallmarks of any scam is that the victim must pay with an untraceable payment method. It doesn’t matter what the story is—a loved one who’s been kidnapped, a utility that’s about to be shut off for non-payment, back taxes you allegedly owe to the IRS, whatever—if you’re told you must pay with an iTunes gift card, prepaid debit card, or wire transfer like Western Union or MoneyGram, it is definitely a scam.
You’d think companies would take a bigger interest in protecting the public from these scams through things like better employee training, signage posted at gift card kiosks, or social media campaigns. After all, once you lose tens of thousands of dollars to a scammer, your spending power takes a hit. But sadly, that hasn’t been the case so far.
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission brought and settled a suit against Western Union for wire transfers, namely that specific agents had reason to suspect a victim was sending money but did nothing to inform them and were not disciplined by the company. As a result, Western Union agreed to pay $586 million in compensation to victims but those victims have to come forward and demonstrate that they were taken advantage of by a scammer and used the wire transfer service to complete the transaction.
If you sent money to a scammer via Western Union between January 1, 2004, and January 19, 2017, then you may be entitled to a portion of that settlement. Victims have until February 2018 to file and prove their involvement.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. “I’ve already reported this matter to Western Union, the Federal Trade Commission, or another government agency”
– Then you should be receiving a claim form in the mail very soon. Be on the lookout for correspondence from a company called Gilardi & Co., who has been hired to handle the claims.
2. “Can’t I take care of this on a website somewhere?”
– You can file your claim online, but you’ll need to use the Claim ID number and the PIN that is included for verification purposes on your mailed form.
3. “I didn’t know I could file a claim, I just thought my money was gone…is it too late?”
– If you haven’t already reported the financial loss or you don’t receive a mailed claim form, go to www.FTC.gov/WU to initiate your claim.
Now, this is of the utmost importance: there will undoubtedly be scams circulating in the coming days, weeks, or even months, set up by criminals who are capitalizing on the news surrounding this landmark settlement. Don’t fall for it. Never give someone who contacts you any identifiable information, never provide your bank account and routing number to someone who claims your settlement will be direct deposited, never click a link to be redirected to a site to file a complaint, and never make any kind of payment in order to receive your claim faster.
If you have questions, read more here from the FTC.
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