FTC: Scam victims may be able to recover money

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – Donna Fournier was scammed out of almost $1,200 when she tried to buy a puppy online last year.

“I thought it was legitimate,” she recalled. “He said, ‘You just send the money through Western Union.'”

Two transactions later, the money was gone and Fournier realized the puppy she was excited to meet wasn’t real.

Now, because of a $586 million settlement between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Western Union, Fournier is hoping to get her money back.

“It would mean a lot,” she said. “It would mean a real lot.”

The FTC claims Western Union knew that scammers were using its money transfer system to steal money from victims of various scams.

Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting chair of the FTC said in a statement, “American consumers lost money while Western Union looked the other way.”

“We’re pleased to start the process that will get that money back into consumers’ rightful hands,” she added.

Any consumer who lost money to a scammer through Western Union between Jan. 2004 and Jan. 19, 2017 is able to file a claim.

Claims must be submitted by Febuary 12, 2018 and will be verified by the Department of Justice. Consumers should attach any documentation of losses.

The amount of money victims receive will depend on how much was lost and the number of people who submit valid claims, according to the FTC.

The agency said the process may take up to a year.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.