Victims scammed via Western Union may get refund

23 January 2018

The ACCC’s Scamwatch is urging all Australians who lost money to a scammer through Western Union from 2004 to 2017 to take action by 31 May* to try to get it back.

Western Union has agreed to pay a penalty of US$586 million to the United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ) after admitting to aiding and abetting wire fraud. The DOJ is using this penalty to provide refunds to eligible people worldwide who were tricked into paying scammers via Western Union.

Australian consumers can use an online form or apply by post to have the money they lost refunded by the DOJ. As this is a US-based action, the ACCC is unable to make claims on a consumer’s behalf or assist consumers with their claims

“Scamwatch hears heartbreaking stories on a daily basis from Australians who have lost money to scammers by wiring funds through Western Union. Over $5 million is reported lost each year to these scams but this is just the tip of the iceberg as many victims don’t contact us,” ACCC Acting Chair Michael Schaper said.

“The sad reality is that in most cases, once you have fallen victim to a scammer, the money is gone – and there’s nothing you can do to get it back. For people who have wired money via Western Union from 2004 until 2017, this may be your chance to recover some of it. There are no guarantees but we strongly encourage you to try by 31 May*.”

Scamwatch says scammers often promise prizes, loans, jobs, discounted products and other financial rewards in exchange for sending money upfront through untraceable wire transfers. They also pretend to be family members in urgent need of cash, or law enforcement officers demanding payment for fines, or countless other excuses, but no one ever receives the cash, prizes or services they were promised by scammers.

For further information, visit the US Department of Justice website www.WesternUnionRemission.com for updates and a detailed list of frequently asked questions.

More information:

All wire transfers made through Western Union within and outside of the United States between 1 January 2004 and 19 January 2017 may be eligible for remission. Australian consumers can submit a claim to the US DOJ either online or by post until 31 May 2018*.

This court ruling followed joint investigations by the United States' (US) Federal Trade Commission, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the US Postal Inspection Service. More information about this case is available via www.ftc.gov/wu.

Scam warning:

You should also beware of scammers trying to use this case to impersonate government departments or Western Union in order to trick you into sending them money or personal information. To avoid this, make sure you follow the instructions on the US DOJ website, do not respond to unsolicited emails about this process and do not transfer any money to anyone in relation to this matter. Please note that the US DOJ is using the legal firm Gilardi & Co LLC to assist with the claims process.**

* Edited on 2 February 2018 to reflect an extension of the claims timeframe from 12 February to 31 May 2018.

** Edited on 3 April 2018 to include an impersonation scam warning.

Read more