(MONTGOMERY)–Attorney General Luther Strange today announced a settlement with Colorado-based The Western Union Company to bring approximately $7,865,024 in refunds for Alabama consumers.
The settlement resolves 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 Alabama, 48 states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement.
“This settlement is expected to return more than $7.8 million in refunds to Alabama consumers, and requires Western Union to make substantive reforms that will make consumers safer,” said Attorney General Strange. “The best way to fight this kind of fraud is by being vigilant and preventing it. One of the easiest ways for a scam artist to take your money is for you to wire it. Anytime someone initiates a wire transaction, be wary and check it out. If they say you need to wire money for taxes or fees to win a prize, it is simply not true. If they claim to be a relative in need, ask questions independently and verify their identity. You should not send money to someone you ‘know’ online but have never met.”
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 settled claims related to fraud-induced transfers with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice that were 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 Alabama victims.
More than 7,624 complaints from Alabama consumers have been filed with Western Union. Eligible consumers are those who were victimized between January 1, 2004, and August 30, 2015. A total amount of $7,865,024 or more in refunds will be returned to Alabama consumers. The individual amounts will depend upon the circumstances of each case.
Attorney General Strange commended those involved in bringing this matter to a successful conclusion, noting Assistant Attorney General Noel Barnes of his Consumer Interest Division.
In addition to Alabama, the following participated in the settlement: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, 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.
The U.S. Justice Department is currently securing a claims administrator to coordinate refunds to eligible individuals. Alabamians who wish to file a claim should visit the U.S. Justice Department website for updates on the claims filing process: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-mlars/remission.