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For Immediate Release: For Further Information:
January 31 2017

Office of The Attorney General
- Christopher S. Porrino, Attorney General
Division of Law
- Michelle Miller, Acting Director
Division of Consumer Affairs
- Steve C. Lee, Director
Media Inquiries-
Lee Moore
609-292-4791
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Citizen Inquiries-
609-984-5828
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New Jersey Joins Multi-State Settlement Addressing Complaints Against Western Union Linked to Fraud-Induced Wire Transfers
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TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced today a multi-state settlement with The Western Union Company that resolves an investigation by the participating states focused on fraud-induced money transfers – specifically, the wiring of money by unwitting consumers to third-party con artists using Western Union’s wire transfer service.

Under the settlement, Colorado-based Western Union is required 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 scammers. New Jersey is a member of the multi-state Executive Committee leading the Western Union investigation.

“Regrettably, con artists use all types of ruses to convince people to wire them money – and they sometimes succeed,” said Attorney General Porrino. “These cons run the gamut from the ‘grandchild in distress’ ploy -- in which a perpetrator contacts a grandparent and falsely claims that funds must be wired to help the grandchild out of a legal or medical crisis -- to contest scams, in which people are tricked into wiring money to pay the taxes and fees on their ‘winnings.’ It’s incumbent on wire-transfer services like Western Union to be vigilant in this area, and to employ operating practices that make it harder for criminals to defraud honest consumers.”

The anti-fraud program required under the settlement, which Western Union has agreed to evaluate and update in the future 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

Under the settlement, Western Union has agreed to pay the participating states a total of $5 million to cover costs related to the investigation. New Jersey is expected to receive approximately $200,000.

Noting that the Internet and social media have added new avenues for potential exploitation by scam artists, Attorney General Porrino cautioned consumers to watch for scams in which a con artist – typically met on-line – may pose as a new love interest or friend then, in short order, begin asking for wired money to help with medical emergencies, a car accident, theft, property damage, a need for emergency travel, etc.

“A consumer who meets someone on-line should be cautious about wiring that person money -- particularly if there’s never been any in-person contact,” Porrino said. “Unfortunately, it happens all too often that the victims of on-line friendship and romance scams end up sending money to the scam artist multiple times before realizing they’ve been duped.”

In addition to the multi-state settlement announced today, Western Union has settled claims related to fraud-induced transfers with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). As part of those separate but related federal settlements, Western Union has agreed to pay a total of $586 million to a fund that DOJ will administer to provide refunds to victims of fraud-induced wire transfers nationwide.

Deputy Attorney General Cathleen O’Donnell, of the Division of Law’s Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, handled the Western Union matter on behalf of the State.

Follow the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office online at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube. The social media links provided are for reference only. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office does not endorse any non-governmental websites, companies or applications.

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