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FTC gives internet scam victims more time to get money back from Western Union

If you’ve ever been bamboozled by a Nigerian prince, all is not lost

Business Photo by: Pauleheult/Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission has extended the claim filing deadline for its $586 million settlement with Western Union. Consumers who’ve previously lost money to a scammer that took payment through Western Union now have until May 31st to file a claim and recoup those funds.

The settlement covers a wide range of potential victims; anyone who got scammed between January 1st, 2004 and January 19th, 2017 is eligible to submit a claim. You’re not necessarily guaranteed to get all of your stolen cash back, however as the FTC says “the amount you get will depend on how much you lost and the number of people who submit valid claims.”

The process of going through those claims might take up to an entire year, so don’t expect repayment anytime soon. A social security must also be provided, as the Justice Department will check to see that you don’t owe the feds any money. If you do, it’ll come out of your refund amount.

If you got duped multiple times (come on, people), you can submit a claim for each incident. Even those who have since lost the paperwork related to the money transfer are encouraged to file for a refund.

The FTC and DOJ first announced this settlement with Western Union back in January 2017. Their stance was that the wire transfer service didn’t do nearly enough to protect the gullible folks among us from the Nigerian princes of the world and other people running advance-fee scams. The agreement covers nearly any instance of getting bamboozled by someone so long as the money went through Western Union. The FTC says these are just a few possibilities:

Online or internet scams – you did not receive the items you tried to buy online

Lottery or prize promotion scams – you were told you won a lottery or sweepstakes, but never got the prize

Emergency or grandparent scams – you sent money to someone pretending to be a relative or friend in urgent need of money

Advance-fee loan scams – you paid upfront fees, but did not get the promised loans

Online dating or romance scams – you sent money to someone who created a fake profile on a dating or social networking website.

Western Union received over 550,000 complaints about money transfers during the 2004 - 2017 timeframe, but the FTC and Justice Department said “the money kept rolling on through” without any real changes or attempts to block scammers. In addition to the monetary judgement, Western Union agreed to a comprehensive training program for employees to detect and prevent fraudulent transfers. The FTC order “prohibits Western Union from transmitting a money transfer that it knows or reasonably should know is fraud-induced.”