DCCA NEWS RELEASE: Office of Consumer Protection announces settlement with Western Union

Posted on Jan 31, 2017 in Latest News

The State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection today announced a settlement with Colorado-based The Western Union Company, resolving a multistate investigation which focused on complaints of consumers who used Western Union’s wire transfer service to send money to third parties involved in schemes to defraud consumers.  In addition to Hawaii, 48 states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement.

“Scammers prey on our citizens with bogus telemarketing and mail scams on a daily basis.” “We believe that the anti-fraud program outlined in this settlement will make it harder for them to succeed,” said Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director, Stephen H. Levins.

According to Levins, “The biggest sign of a scam is if someone asks you to wire money to recover your winnings.” “This is the reason why Federal law bars telemarketers from receiving payments through money transfer, such as provided by companies like Western Union or MoneyGram.”

The settlement requires Western Union to develop and put into action a comprehensive anti-fraud program designed to help detect and prevent incidents where consumers who have been the victims of fraud use Western Union to wire money to scam artists.

That anti-fraud program, which Western Union has agreed to evaluate and update as warranted, includes the following elements:

  • Anti-fraud warnings on send 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;
  • Prompt and appropriate disciplinary action against Western Union agents who fail to follow required protocols concerning anti-fraud measures;

Western Union also has agreed to pay a total of $5 million to the states for the states’ costs and fees, from which Hawaii will receive approximately $46,000. In addition to this settlement with the states, Western Union also settled claims related to fraud-induced transfers with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice that was announced on January 19, 2017.  As part of those related settlements, Western Union has 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, including victims in Hawaii.

In addition to Hawaii the following participated in the settlement: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

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Media Contact:

William Nhieu

Communications Officer

Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs

Email:  wnhieu@dcca.hawaii.gov

Phone: (808) 586-7582

Cell:    (808) 389-2788