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Victims scammed in past 14 years may get money back

January 24, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

All Australians who lost money to a scammer from 2004 to 2017 have a chance of getting their money back, but only if they fall into a certain category.

If the scam was conducted using the monetary services of Western Union, the giant American financial services and communications company, victims around the world have until 12 February 2018 to try to get their lost cash back.

Western Union has agreed to pay a penalty of USD 586 million to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) after admitting to aiding and abetting wire fraud, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission confirmed yesterday. The DOJ is using this penalty to provide refunds to eligible people worldwide who were tricked into paying scammers via Western Union.

In some travel scams, unwary travellers booking accommodation directly through “sharing economy” platforms such as Airbnb are redirected by cunning fraudsters to a spoofed site that looks almost identical to the real, official one.

Once the consumer has decided to rent the property, they are prompted to wire money – and are never contacted again. For a recent case, see: ‘Sharing economy’ booking requires utmost care

In most instances, the hapless consumers who booked direct and have been conned by scammers have lost their money forever. But not, perhaps, if they used Western Union to wire the money.

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 [the ACCC site] hears heartbreaking stories on a daily basis from Australians who have lost money to scammers by wiring funds through Western Union,” ACCC Acting Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.

“Over AUD 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.

“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 12 February.”

For further information, visit the US Department of Justice website (link is external) for updates and a detailed list of frequently asked questions (link is external).

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 12 February 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 (link is external).

Written by Peter Needham

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