Iowans have a few weeks to seek refunds from money wire scam

Attorney General Tom Miller issues a reminder Thursday

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller during a news conference at the Cedar Rapids Fire Department Central Fire Station in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller during a news conference at the Cedar Rapids Fire Department Central Fire Station in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowans only have a few weeks left to ask for a refund if they wired money to scammers through Western Union, the state’s attorney general said Thursday.

“Why I’m here this morning is to let as many Iowans as possible know that if they were scammed between 2004 and 2017 with Western Union used as the way to transfer the money, they have the ability to get that money back,” Attorney General Tom Miller said during a news conference.

The deadline to submit a refund claim is Feb. 12, Miller said.

The refunds come after the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice reached a $586 million settlement with Western Union in January 2017. Western Union admitted that it processed and failed to stop thousands of transactions sent to scammers between Jan. 1, 2004 and Jan. 19, 2017, according to a news release.

Scams included fake lottery awards, family emergencies, advance-fee loans and more, the Attorney General’s Office said.

Iowans who already reported their losses to the government or Western Union should have received a claim letter. In addition, Miller’s office said it mailed settlement notices to more than 18,000 Iowans last week.

Consumers do not need to have reported a fraudulent transaction to be eligible for a refund.

Iowans who want to submit a refund claim can do so through a link at ftc.gov/wu or westernunionremission.com. They also can call 844-319-2124 for more information.

“This is a very unusual and a very important opportunity for people to get their money that were defrauded through a Western Union transfer,” he said.

HOW TO AVOID MONEY WIRE SCAMS

Here is advice from the Attorney General’s Office on how to handle money wire transfers:

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• Take caution with calls that ask to wire money for an emergency with a family member or friend. Independently verify if an emergency occurred.

• Red flags include if someone says a wire transfer is the only acceptable payment form; if a check is received but you are asked to wire back some of the funds; or if someone claims you won a prize but need to wire money before getting the award.

• Consumers worried they have been scammed can call the FTC at 877-382-4357.

• No government agency or Western Union will call consumers to ask to verify personal information about the settlement or request fees. Those calls would be a scam, Miller said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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