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How Do Scammers use Western Union to Commit Wire Transfer Fraud?

After a criminal has successfully got you on aboard with their scam and you have agreed to send them money, they will use the name of a trusted wire transfer service to make themselves appear genuine. One service commonly used is Western Union.

Western Union is a money transfer service which allows you to send money to anyone around the world. It is a safe and secure service which scammers often take advantage of.

What are Common Western Union Scams?

Scammers can trick you into transferring money to them using many different tactics. However, below are details of some of the most common methods and types of scams used.

Advance Fee Scams

A scammer will contact you, normally via a phishing email or social media advert, and offer you various financial products at unbeatable rates, for example; loans, credit cards or investment opportunities. In order to secure the product, they will ask you to pay an upfront fee by a wire transfer. Once you have transferred the money, they will disappear and the loan or credit card will never materialise.

Tax Scams

A scammer will contact you, posing as a government official, saying that you owe tax to HMRC which must be paid immediately in order to avoid fines, or even arrest. They will demand that you transfer the money as soon as possible. These scammers use threatening language in order to worry you and make you act quickly but it is important to remember that HMRC will never contact you in this way. They will only ever contact you via post.

Charity Scams

This scam normally happens after there has been a disaster such as a flood or an earthquake. Scammers will contact you, posing as charity officials, and ask you to send money to help the victims. With this scam it is important to remember that legitimate charity organisation will never reach out to you individually to send them money.

Family or Friend Emergency

This scam occurs when the criminal has managed to hack into a family member or friend’s email or social media account. The scammer will send out messages to all their contacts saying they’re in trouble and urgently need money. They will also send you account details in order to carry out a wire transfer.

Auction Site Scams

The scammer poses as a genuine seller on an auction site like eBay, Amazon or Gumtree. Once there is an interested buyer, the scammer will ask for the payment to be done off the auction site and through a wire transfer instead. After the money has been sent, the buyer will never receive what they bought and the scammer will disappear.

Lottery Scam

You will be contacted by a scammer, usually via a phishing email or text message, telling you that you’ve won the lottery or a prize. In order to receive your winnings, they will claim that you have to send them money to cover taxes or fees. Once you have transferred the money, you may receive a cheque to make the scam look genuine, but the cheque will bounce and you will be left unable to contact the scammer again.

How and Where to Report Scammers Using Western Union

If you have transferred money via Western Union and you believe that it was part of a scam, you need to call Western Union as soon as possible. If the money has not yet been paid then they can stop the transaction immediately and refund you. You can call them free on 0800 026 0309.

If you contact them after the money has been received by the scammer you should still file a complaint with their fraud department by calling the same number or by filling out their online complaint form. All reported cases will be reviewed to see if a refund can be permitted.

Western Union also advise that you should report your situation to the police.

How to Avoid Western Union Scams

According to Western Union, these are the things you should never do when you are using their money transfer services:

  • You should never transfer money to someone you haven’t met in person first.

  • You will never be asked to perform a money transfer to pay taxes you owe, so never send money to pay for this.

  • Never give your banking information or account details to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person first.

  • Never transfer money in advance of receiving a loan or credit card.

  • Legitimate charities will never individually contact you to send them money, so never transfer money to someone who says they are raising money for disaster victims.

  • Never transfer money to someone to purchase something from them online. Your money won’t be protected by the auction website if the transaction was performed off their platform.

  • Never transfer money on receipt of a cheque until it has officially cleared, which could take weeks so be patient.


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