We’ve written before about a huge settlement involving Western Union, one of the most popular money transfer companies in the world. Affected consumers may be entitled to part of $586 million — but you only have a little more than a month to file a claim, according to a reminder this week from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The settlement stems from allegations from the FTC that Western Union failed to protect consumers from fraud, and didn’t adequately discipline rogue employees.
Western Union received more than 550,000 complaints from people who said that they were duped into making fraudulent money transfers for things like online dating scams, lottery prizes, family emergency calls and the like, the FTC said. Despite warnings from law enforcement agencies abroad and here in the States along with internal reports from the company itself flagging some of their own workers, fraudulent transfers continued, according to the FTC.
How to check whether you’re owed money from Western Union’s $586 million settlement
“Western Union has known for years that scammers were using its system to commit significant fraud. Even when faced with clear evidence that many of its agents were committing fraud, Western Union kept taking people’s money,” the FTC said in January 2017.
The FTC said the amount of transfers that were fraudulently transmitted was “probably billions,” raising the stakes in the case.
In response, Western Union said in a statement that it will settle the case, agreeing to pay the U.S. government $586 million, “which is to be used to reimburse consumers who were victims of fraud during the relevant period.”
The company also agreed to institute an anti-fraud program. “Western Union also will take specific actions to further enhance its oversight of agents and its protection of customers. Those actions will be reviewed by an independent compliance auditor for three year,” the company added.
The government says now it’s time for people who believe they were scammed to get their money back.
If you’ve used Western Union through the years here are three important W’s that can help you:
- When: The timeframe of the fraudulent activity is defined as January 1, 2004 to January 19, 2017. If you used Western Union between this 14-year period, you may be eligible for a claim.
- What: The deadline for consumers to file a claim is February 12, 2018.
- Where: You can file a claim two ways: online or via mail.
How to file a claim against Western Union
Here is the process laid out by the Department of Justice (who is handling refunds) so that consumers who believe they were scammed can file a claim:
If you’ve already reported your loss, you may have received a pre-filled claim form, the FTC says. But if you don’t have one, no worries, you can still file a claim.
To file online, the FTC says go to this link on their site at FTC.gov/WU. The DOJ has hired a firm, Gilardi & Co., to process the claims.
Although, you can file a claim through the mail, the FTC is recommending that you do it online because the process involves giving your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. “We know it’s not that safe to send your Social Security number through the mail to someone you’ve never heard of. That’s why we suggest filing your claim online,” the FTC says.
If you happen to have already gotten a claim form in the mail from Gilardi, you can return it via mail to this address only: United States v. The Western Union Company, PO Box 404027, Louisville, KY 40233-4027.
Remember, nobody is going to call you from the FTC or any other agency to ask for your Social Security number or any other personal information. If they do, it’s a scam.
Also, when filing your claim, remember to be as detailed as possible about the amount you wired and when it occurred. This will help the DOJ validate your claim.
How much money will you get back?
That depends on two factors, according to the FTC: how many people file a claim and how many of those can be validated by the DOJ.