Attorney General Pam Bondi today announced a settlement with The Western Union Company, resolving a multistate investigation into complaints of consumers using Western Union’s wire transfer service to unknowingly send money to third parties involved in fraudulent schemes. In addition to Florida, 48 other states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement.
The fraudulent schemes using Western Union are varied, but commonly include lottery and contest scams that trick consumers into believing that they won a big prize, but first must wire money to cover taxes or fees before collecting the award. Unscrupulous individuals also illegally use Western Union to operate grandparent and romance scams. In these types of scams, consumers are told they need to wire money to help a loved one or someone they met online who is in immediate danger and needs money to travel home, for medical treatment or for other emergency expenses.
As part of the settlement, Western Union is required to develop and put into action a comprehensive anti-fraud program designed to help detect and prevent these types of scams where victims use Western Union to unintentionally wire money to scam artists.
This anti-fraud program, which Western Union agrees to implement and update as warranted, includes the following elements:
- Anti-fraud warnings on 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.
As part of the settlement, Western Union also agreed to pay a total of $5 million to the states for costs and fees. In addition to this multistate settlement, Western Union recently settled claims related to fraud-induced transfers with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice. As part of those related settlements, Western Union 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. Florida’s minimum estimated share to eligible consumers is more than $40 million to more than 36,000 consumers. For more information about FTC’s and DOJ’s settlement with Western Union, click here.
To view the assurance of voluntary compliance, click here.