Did you lose money transfers to fraudsters via Western Union?

A Western Union employee fills out paperwork for a money transfer.
A Western Union employee fills out paperwork for a money transfer. el Nuevo Herald File

Victims who were tricked into sending money to fraudsters via Western Union may be able to get their money back.

Thanks to an agreement between the federal government and Western Union, fraud victims can file a claim for a refund if the transaction occurred between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 1, 2017. Claims must be filed at before Feb. 12, 2018.

Western Union has agreed to pay $586 million to settle complaints by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department.

People who already reported their losses to Western Union and the FTC or other government agencies will be mailed a form by Gilardi & Co., which will administer the claims process under a contract by the Justice Department.

The form will include the ID number for the claim and a PIN number needed to submit a claim on the FTC website. Victims can also use the information to check online on the status of their claim. Submitting the claims is free.

Consumers who are contacted by phone should not give out any bank account or credit card numbers, the FTC announced.

The FTC alleged that fraudsters used Western Union to receive money from their victims even after the company was aware of the problem and had received hundreds of thousands of complaints

The frauds involved lotteries, family emergencies, cash advances, internet meetings and other scams, an FTC announcement Tuesday said.

The company apparently also failed to promptly punish “problematic Western Union agents and did not implement effective policies and procedures against fraud.”

Interim FTC President Maureen K. Ohlhausen said U.S. consumers “lost money while Western Union looked the other way. We are happy to be starting the process that will return this money to the legitimate hands of consumers.”

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco declared that even “knowing its agents were involved in fraudulent schemes — and knowing it had the legal obligation to detect and report that criminal conduct to authorities — Western Union took no action, which led to massive losses for the victims.”

“Returning the funds to these and other victims is one of the key priorities of the department,” Blanco added.