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Consumers who lost money as victims of certain scams might be able to get their money back, according to First Judicial District Attorney Pete Weir.
The specific scams involved consumers making payment through Western Union between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 19, 2017. The Federal Trade Commission has reached a financial settlement with Western Union for failing to warn and alert potential victims of scams from sending money.
For years, many people who lost money to scams sent their payment through a Western Union wire transfer. Scammers 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. No one received the cash, prizes or services they were promised.
Because of joint investigations by the FTC, the Department of Justice and the U. S. Postal Inspection Service, Western Union agreed to pay $586 million and admitted to aiding and abetting wire fraud. DOJ is now using that money to provide refunds to people who were tricked into using Western Union to pay scammers.
The settlement says, “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.”
For more information and to access a claim form, consumers can go to the FTC website at www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds/western-union-settlement-faqs.
Forms must be submitted by Feb. 12.
• Each claim will need to be verified by the United States Department of Justice.
• Expenses such as Western Union fees or transfers sent via other companies (e.g. MoneyGram) are not eligible.
• If you sent multiple money transfers related to a scam, you can file a claim for all of the money transfers that occurred during the eligible time period.
• It may take up to a year for claims to be paid and the amounts paid will be determined by how many claims are filed and the amount of those claims as filed with the Federal Trade Commission.
• A file may be claimed even if the fraud was not reported to Western Union. Victims are encouraged to file a claim even if they no longer have the paperwork involving the transfer; it may receive consideration.
• If you are the representative of an estate or have Power of Attorney for someone who lost money, you may file, using those documents to verify your request for reimbursement.
• The U.S. Department of Justice will check with the Treasury Offset Program to verify that a claimant does not owe money to the federal government. If money is owed, the reimbursement will be reduced by the amount owed the federal government. For that reason, a Social Security number or ITIN number must be included.
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