If you've been scammed using a western union transfer, you can apply for a refund thanks to a us government court case.
Wire fraud scams targeting New Zealanders continue to be reported, with many involving Trade Me transactions. As a result of a recent US government lawsuit ("United States vs the Western Union Company"), victims of any fraud which involved transferring money using a Western Union wire transfer between 1 January 2004 and 19 January 2017 can now apply for a refund for the money lost thanks to a US$600 million settlement with the popular money transfer company. Victims will need to act fast, the cut-off date for submitting a claim is 12 February 2018.
Background to the case of United States vs the Western Union Company
Western Union's settlement for US$586m (NZ$800m) comes after the company admitted to failing to maintain an effective anti-money-laundering program and aiding and abetting wire fraud as a result. Following the court case, the US Department of Justice has publicly encouraged victims of Western Union-related frauds to apply for a refund if they lost money transferred irrespective of their nationality or location. The settlement money received by the government from Western Union will be used to refund verified victims. If you have been scammed, you’ll want to submit a claim.
What is this case about?
Citing the US Federal Trade Commission, the case arose out of numerous instances of people who lost money to scams sending their payments through Western Union wire transfers. 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 (DOJ), and the U. S. Postal Inspection Service, Western Union agreed to pay US$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.
What fraud qualifies for a refund?
Any fraud that occurred from making a payment via Western Union is covered. This covers cases of not receiving what you were promised, or instances where you transferred money to a person who wasn’t who they said they were. In both cases you can apply for a refund.
I'm not American. Can I apply?
Yes. As can anyone from anywhere - MoneyHub contacted the US Department of Justice who promptly confirmed refund requests can be made by anyone, irrespective of where in the world they live or what their nationality may be. As such, New Zealanders have an equal right of refund to any other applicant.
How do I claim?
Applicants will need to submit a form online which covers the details of the fraud, recovery history and contact details. You don’t need to supply bank details, and the field for a social security number can be ignored. Any evidence such as transfer documents, email chains, police reports etc needs to be submitted with the form. Only apply directly with the US Government and not any third party website you may find in Google about the case.
Prefer Snail Mail?
If you wish to apply in writing, you will need to download the claim form and post it to:
United States vs the Western Union Company
PO Box 404028
Louisville, KY 40233-4028
Sources: FTC Geographic Q&A and the FTC submission process