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Western Union Agents Fail to Verify ID, Helping Scammers

Posted On   date26/02/2014

Western Union Agents Fail to Verify ID, Helping Scammers

Image Credit: Reuters.

Western Union is the world’s largest and best known money transfer service.  The company has a long and proven history providing easy money transfers to people around the world.  In fact, the company was founded in 1851 and started as a telegraph company.  Today, Western Union is a huge empire with over 7,000 global employees, annual revenues over $5 billion, and trades on the NYSE as symbol WU.

A Darker Side

Behind this successful front and longstanding track record is a darker side, however.  Western Union is commonly used to send money internationally, precisely because it is easy to do and easy to receive.  For legitimate customers and recipients, it is smooth process at a fair price.  But, criminals around the world also use and enjoy the benefits of Western Union, and these fraudulent transfers are booming.

Many fraudulent money transfers result from online dating scams and other internet crime.  The key is to never send money to anyone you’ve never met in person or had verified by a professional.

Transfers to Fake Names

Most Western Union employees are honest people who do their jobs and follow procedure.  Within the global network of locations, however, there are serious failures that are coming to light.  Some Western Union agents are accused of helping scammers and identifications are often not even checked.   Scam victims often ask Wymoo professional investigators, “how could this person not exist, if he or she picked up the money I sent and Western Union verified the person’s ID?”  Now you know. In other cases, when agents do check ID, criminals use accomplices or a fake ID to receive the money, and it’s all too easy.

The reality is that hundreds of millions of dollars being picked up by criminals operating in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Romania, China, Ukraine, South Africa, Colombia and many more,  including developed countries like the U.K. and Canada, all without an ID.  This is great for criminals because they have less chance of getting caught.  This is good for Western Union, because if the transfer goes through, they make money on it.  It’s easy to see the conflict of interest.

Time for a Change

Investigators have known for years that Western Union can and should do more to protect senders and their customers from fraud.  The company absolutely should do more to verify the identification of the recipient and also warn potential victims on the risk of sending overseas.   Regulators agree.  In fact, Western Union is now being probed by the Federal Trade Commission and a U.S. district court.

The bottom line is that no matter what safeguards Western Union, banks and other money transfer services put into place, criminals will always find a way to steal your money or information.  Be safe, protect your privacy and personal data, and never send money to anyone you’ve never met  or had verified.  When in doubt, always consider a professional background check to lower your risk.

C. Wright
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