The US Department of Justice has begun distribution of nearly $40 million to people in the US and overseas who fell victim to wire transfer fraud facilitated via Western Union’s payment network.
The latest distribution, of $39.6 million, will be paid in compensation for the approximately 25,000 victims who stand to recover the full amount of their losses, with more authorized payment distributions anticipated in the future.
The million-dollar payments stem from a 2017 prosecution agreement in which money wiring services provider Western Union was ordered to reimburse a whopping $586 million to victims of online fraud scams involving its services, some of which were facilitated by the company’s employees.
“This is the first distribution in the second phase of the Western Union Remission distributions,” the DOJ said. “The first phase of distributions paid more than $365 million to over 148,000 victims, all of whom received full compensation for their losses,”
According to the DOJ, fraudsters targeted a wide variety of consumers, including seniors, with schemes ranging from grandparent scams to sweepstakes and romance swindles in which the victims were ultimately convinced to wire money via Western Union.
“Three specific scams directed towards seniors include the grandparent scam, where the fraudster would pose as the victim’s relative in need of immediate money to avoid personal harm, lottery, or sweepstakes scams; where the fraudster would tell the victim that they had won a large cash prize but had to pay fees such as taxes to claim the prize; and romance scams, where the fraudster would pose as an online love interest and request funds for a visit or for another purpose,” the DOJ explained.
The investigation found that operators, owners or employees of certain Wester Union agent locations were associated with these activities, aiding and abetting fraudulent money transactions.
“Today’s distribution of $39.6 million to thousands of victims to compensate them for their losses demonstrates our commitment to hold all responsible parties accountable and to ensure justice for the victims who were financially harmed,” said US Attorney Gerard M. Karam for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. “We thank our law enforcement partners who continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the victims.”
For more information on how to submit a claim for your losses, check here.
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