Attorney General Fox Announces Settlement with Western Union
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox today announced a settlement with Colorado-based The Western Union Company, resolving a multistate investigation which focused on complaints of consumers who used Western Union’s wire transfer service to send money to third parties involved in schemes to defraud consumers. In addition to Montana, 48 states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement.
“Criminal scam artists are adept at dreaming up all kinds of schemes to convince consumers to wire them money,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “These schemes include lottery and contest scams in which consumers are told they have won a large sum of money but must first wire money to pay required taxes or fees before receiving their winnings; grandparent scams in which a consumer believes his or her loved one is in immediate danger and needs money right away; and romance scams in which someone poses as a love interest and then soon begins asking consumers to send money for various reasons, such as medical emergencies, car accidents, muggings, emergency travel, etc.”
“Consumers who receive solicitations from strangers promising big winnings should toss those letters in the trash, delete the e-mail, or hang up the phone,” Attorney General Fox added. “And consumers who meet someone online should be cautious about wiring money, particularly if an in-person meeting has never taken place. Unfortunately, all too often, romance scam victims send money multiple times to the scam artist before realizing they’ve been duped.”
The settlement requires Western Union to develop and put into action a comprehensive anti-fraud program designed to help detect and prevent incidents where consumers who have been the victims of fraud use Western Union to wire money to scam artists. That anti-fraud program, which Western Union has agreed to evaluate and update as warranted, includes the following elements:
• Anti-fraud warnings on send forms that consumers use to wire money;
• Mandatory and appropriate training and education for Western Union’s agents about fraud-induced wire transfers;
• Heightened anti-fraud procedures when warranted by circumstances such as increased fraud complaints;
• Due diligence checks on Western Union agents who process money transfers;
• Monitoring of Western Union agent activity related to prevention of fraud-induced money transfers;
• Prompt and appropriate disciplinary action against Western Union agents who fail to follow required protocols concerning anti-fraud measures.
Western Union also has agreed to pay a total of $5 million to the states for the states’ costs and fees. In addition to this settlement with the states, Western Union also settled claims related to fraud-induced transfers with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice that was announced on January 19, 2017. As part of those related settlements, Western Union has agreed to pay $586M to a fund that the federal Department of Justice will administer to provide refunds to victims of fraud-induced wire transfers nationwide, including Montana victims. More information about this settlement is available at: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-mlars/remission.
In addition to Montana, the following participated in the settlement: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.
For more information, Montanans can call the Office of Consumer Protection at the Montana Department of Justice at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500.