January 31-- Attorney General Chris Carr 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 Georgia, 48 states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement.
“Criminal scam artists are adept at developing all kinds of schemes to convince consumers to wire them money,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “We want to do everything we can to protect our consumers from these malicious practices, and our involvement in this settlement with other attorneys general is a big indicator that Georgia will stand firmly against these activities in any form.”
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. And, consumers who meet someone online should always be cautious about wiring money, particularly if meeting in person has never taken place. Often times, schemes include the following scenarios:
- 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;
- Loved one scams in which a consumer believes his or her relative or close friend 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 and more.
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;
- And, prompt and appropriate disciplinary action against Western Union agents who fail to follow required protocols concerning anti-fraud measures.
Western Union has also 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 Georgia victims.
More information about this settlement is available here.
In addition to Georgia, the following participated in the settlement: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, 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.