How to get a refund if you paid a scammer via Western Union
I have spoken to hundreds of people who have been scammed by scam artists.
Some were so angry that I was afraid they would pass out because they got so upset during our conversations. Others were more embarrassed than mad, realizing afterwards that they should have known better.
The only emotion shared by most of the victims was despair. They lamented how unlikely they were to get their money back.
This is often the case. But not everyone should give up. There is new hope for potentially thousands of victims, including some who were defrauded nearly two decades ago.
If you lost money transferring it to a scammer via Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017, you can file a refund request.
But you must file the claim quickly. The deadline is August 31.
The refunds stem from a settlement Western Union signed with the US Department of Justice in 2017. The money transfer service agreed to provide $586 million to authorities to compensate scam victims. Authorities claimed Western Union knew its network was being used to commit crimes and was not doing enough.
The federal government has already distributed over $366 million to over 148,000 people. And because there is still money left, they accept a second set of claims.
Victims must file a form, officially known as a Request for Surrender. Forms are available online at WesternUnionRemissionPhase2.com. Forms can also be downloaded from this website and submitted by mail. To request that a claim form be mailed to you, call 1-855-786-1048.
More than 300,000 potentially eligible scam victims who have been identified by authorities have already received a claim form.
In 2017, federal investigators filed criminal charges against Western Union, alleging it aided and abetted wire fraud and lacked an effective anti-money laundering program. Authorities said some Western Union agents participated in the fraud and received a reduction in payments from victims. Some officers were prosecuted, including a few whose victims included residents of Monroe and Schuylkill counties.
The national case was filed in Harrisburg and investigated by multiple agencies, including U.S. Attorney’s Offices that cover the Lehigh Valley and surrounding counties.
Western Union entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay compensation and improve its system to prevent it from being used for fraudulent purposes. Charges will not be pursued if these requirements are met. The company has also settled a concurrent investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.
Victims were scammed through various schemes, including the “grandparent scam”, where scammers posed as parents of elderly victims in need of immediate money to get out of jail or avoid other damages.
Other schemes included lottery or sweepstakes scams, where victims were told they had won prizes and had to pay fees or taxes in advance to claim them; and romance scams, where scammers pose as online love interests and trick people into sending them money.
I exposed many of these scams during my days writing The Morning Call’s Watchdog column that watched over consumers.
So I’m happy to pass on the message that some victims have a chance to recoup their losses, even if it’s a decade or more later. I hope people will take notice of this rare opportunity and take the time to file a claim.
Be aware that documentation, such as receipts or the 10-digit money transfer control number for your money transfer, is required. Authorities say it will take up to a year, possibly longer, to verify eligibility for a refund, so be patient after filing a claim.
More information about the process, including eligibility criteria, is available at WesternUnionRemissionPhase2.com or by calling 1-855-786-1048.
Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or [email protected]