Attorney General Joseph A. Foster today announced a settlement with Colorado-based The Western Union Company, resolving a multi state 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 New Hampshire, 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 Foster. “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,” said Attorney General Foster. “And consumers who meet someone online should be cautious about wiring money, particularly if meeting in person has never taken place. Unfortunately, all too often, romance scam victims send money multiple times to the scam artist before realizing they have 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
Western Union 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 $586 million to a fund that the Department of Justice will administer to provide refunds to victims of fraud induced wire transfers nationwide, including New Hampshire victims. More information about this settlement is available at: https://www.justice.gov/criminal- mlars/remission.
New Hampshire’s share of this settlement is $45,425.38.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau has a consumer information line – 1-888-468-4454. Consumer complaints can be found on the Attorney General’s website at: http://www.doj.nh.gov/consumer/complaints/index.htm.