Bamboozled November 30, 2017: Get your Western Union refund, but don’t get scammed again

A screen shot of Western Union's home page.
A screen shot of Western Union’s home page. (Western Union)

Those who were scammed once are ripe to be scammed again.

Or at least that’s what some con artists are betting on.

Don’t fall for it.

We’ve written about all kinds of scams in this space. Lottery and sweepstakes scams. Job scams. The Grandma scam. Jury dutyscams. Online dating scams.

They all have one thing in common. In order to win your prize, help your loved one or get out of legal trouble, you have to pay.

Many of the scammers tell would-be victims to load money onto gift cards or other kinds of pre-paid debit cards, and the scammers abscond with the funds.

Others have instructed their prey to wire money via Western Union.

Those who fell for the wire scams now have a chance to get some of their money back.

As part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Western Union agreed to pay $586 million, admitting to “criminal violations including willfully failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and aiding and abetting wire fraud,” FTC said.

Those millions of dollars, at least in part, will be used for consumer refunds.

If you used Western Union to send money to a scammer between Jan. 1, 2004 and Jan. 19, 2017, you can file a claim to get a refund.

But this is where you have to make sure you don’t get scammed a second time. Watch out for those who say they can help you file your claim.

To make sure you don’t get taken by an impersonator, you should learn about the real process to get a refund.

For starters, DOJ is handling the claims, but it’s using a company called Gilardi & Co. to reach out to consumers.

If you filed a complaint with a government agency — including the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs — you may have already received a pre-filled claim form from Gilardi & Co.  The claim form has a “Claim ID” and a “PIN Code.” When you go to the FTC’s website — — you can enter the numbers and go through the claims process. (You will eventually be transferred to a third party site, but this is real, too.)

If you never filed a complaint or you didn’t receive a pre-filled claim form, you can still apply for a refund at the same site. When you complete the online form, you’ll have an opportunity to upload any supporting documentation about your loss.

Even if you don’t have proof of your loss, the FTC said you can still file a claim.

You can also file the claim by regular mail.

Whether you received a claim form or not, know that scammers are looking for ways to capitalize on the settlement.

Consumers have reported that they’ve received fake claim forms, on which the bad guys say you have to pay a fee to make a claim. Other consumers have received phone calls from someone claiming they can help you file a claim. Again, for a fee.

No, no, no.

There are no fees here. You don’t have to pay anything to file a claim. And the government isn’t having its employees contact potential victims to offer assistance on the telephone or any other method.

And they certainly won’t ask for your bank account or credit card number.

Here are some more details from the FTC to help consumers through the process.

  • You must submit a claim by Feb. 12, 2018.
  • The claim form asks for your Social Security number, and this isn’t part of any scam. The feds have to make sure you don’t owe any money to the federal government — think back taxes — before it pays anything out to you. If you do owe anything, your refund would be reduced by that amount.
  • Not everyone will get money back, and you may not get your entire loss. “If your claim is verified, the amount you get will depend on how much you lost and the number of people who submit valid claims,” FTC said.
  • Be patient. It could take a year to verify all the claims that come in before any refunds are processed, the feds said.
  • Filing your claim online is probably the quickest way to get in line for a review, but you can also call the administrator at (844) 319-2124 to ask about your specific situation.

The takeaway? Filing a claim won’t cost you any money. If someone offers to help for a fee, just say no. And report it to the FTC.