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For Immediate Release
November 14, 2005
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

CURRAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH WESTERN UNION REGARDING FRAUDULENT TELEMARKETERS

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that Western Union Financial Services, Inc. has agreed to take steps to address the use of the company’s wire transfer services by fraudulent telemarketers. Under the Agreement between Western Union and 47 states and the District of Columbia, Western Union, will, among other things, fund an $8.1 million national consumer awareness program and set out very prominent consumer warnings on the forms used by consumers to wire money.

The problem addressed by the Agreement is the high number of "fraud-induced transfers"–that is, money wired by consumers to fraudulent telemarketers and other scam artists. For example, some telemarketers, often based in other countries, use a "lottery" scam, in which they tell consumers they have won a large sum of money but must pay taxes or other charges in order to claim the winnings. The victims are then directed to send the money by wire, because wire transfers are fast, there are transfer agents in most communities, and funds can be picked up in multiple locations.

"I am pleased that Western Union is taking steps to diminish the use of its wire transfer network by scam artists," Curran said. He advised consumers that they should be wary about wiring money to people the consumers do not know in foreign countries.

Among the terms of the Agreement are these:

• Prominent warnings to consumers of the dangers of wire-induced wire transfers must appear in English and Spanish on a new front page of Western Union’s Send Form, and comparable warnings are required for telephone and Web transfers.

• Western Union will pay $8.1 million over five years for national peer-counseling programs to be overseen by the AARP Foundation and designed to reach at least 3 million consumers.

• Western Union will reimburse the amount of any transfer plus fees to any consumer who requests, prior to pickup, that a transfer be stopped and who reasonably claims that the transfer was fraud-induced.

• Western Union will send monthly anti-fraud emails to its agents, revise the company’s agent training video and manual, and provide enhanced training to agents with elevated fraud levels at their locations.

• Western Union will terminate agents who are involved in fraud, and suspend or terminate agents who do not take reasonable steps requested by WU to reduce fraud.

• Western Union will block wire transfers from specific consumers or to specific recipients when Western Union receives information from a state that there is reason to believe that fraud will occur, until such time as the consumer is counseled on fraud and requests resumption of the transfer.

Western Union Financial Services is a wholly-owned subsidiary of First Data Corporation, based in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Signing the Agreement were the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, 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, 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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