Western Union and MoneyGram Indicate ScamOne of the biggest indications of a scam, if not the biggest, is any request that money, for any purpose, be sent via a money transfer service like Western Union, MoneyGram, Coinstar, Liberty Reserve, Vigo, Moneybookers or MoneyPak
Bank to Bank Transfer / Telegraphic Money Transfer is not much better since once you transfer money to a bank account the transaction cannot be reversed even if you are scammed!
Western Union and MoneyGram both recommend that consumers never send money to strangers using their services. Obviously, in any online transaction you are sending money to a stranger, so you should never send money via a money transfer service in any online transaction. Sending money with a money transfer services is just like sending cash. Once the money is sent its gone, and you can't get it back, even if you were scammed. Sending money via WU/MG to someone you don't personally know is like giving cash to a stranger and hoping he does whatever he says he will ... when and if he comes back!
WU and MG agreed to place fraud warnings on their websites as part of a settlement of two class action lawsuits brought against them resulting from fraudsters abusing their services.
for information on the lawsuits. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the London Metropolitan Police have similar warnings. Excepts from the warnings are quoted below. Click the titles to see the full warning and additional information from this article:
FTC "Wiring Money" http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/m ... oney.shtml
Western Union http://www.westernunion.com/sites/us/co ... enter.page
The Western Union Money Transfer® service is a great way to send money to people you know and trust. If you need to send money to someone you don’t know well, you may be putting yourself at risk for fraud.
* Never send money to a stranger using a money transfer service.
* Beware of deals or opportunities that seem too good to be true.
* Don’t use money transfer services to pay for things like online auction purchases.
* Never send money to pay for taxes or fees on foreign lottery winnings.
* Never provide your banking information to unknown individuals or businesses.
* Never send money in advance to obtain a loan or credit card.
* Verify every emergency situation before sending money.
...Real Governments and Companies Do Not Request Payment via WU/MG
No government department, official, employee, agent or diplomat; No court of law, lawyer, solicitor, attorney, barrister or law firm; No local, national or international law enforcement agency; No lottery, promotion or charity; No shipping, courier, or escrow company; bank or financial institution, or similar company, no matter what country it is in, including, but not limited to, the FBI, Interpol, Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), World Bank, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, Federal Reserve Bank, United Postal Service, DHL, Federal Express, United Parcel Service, MoneyGram, Western Union, Bank of America, ING, Prudential, Central Bank of Nigeria, PayPal, CllickandBuy, Yahoo, Amazon, etc. ever requests payment of any cost, fee, or charge, via WU/MG. No real company or government of any kind will ever request money via WU. If that ever happens, its a scammer impersonating that company or government. Legit Online Stores Do Not Request Payment via WU/MG
Any online "store" or "company" that only accepts, demands, encourages or even mentions payment via WU and/or MG should be viewed as a scam as no legitimate business would have such a payment policy. Counterfeit Check Scammers Depend on WU/MG to Run Their Scams
Never accept a check or money order from an online stranger or company for any reason, deposit it in your bank account, and when it "clears", wire money back to the stranger or anybody else using WU/MG. It is a scam! The check/money order will always be fake! The scammer hopes that the fake is good enough to fool the bank long enough for it to make the funds "available". Just because the funds are "available" does not mean that the check has actually cleared or is genuine. The funds are only made available temporarily until the check/money order is verified. If you withdraw the cash and sent it via WU/MG to the scammer, the money's gone. When the bank finds out the check/money order is fake (in the U.S. they have a year to do this) they will debit your account for the amount of the check/money order and turn the fake over to law enforcement. At best, your account will be closed or frozen and your credit could be affected, at worst you could be prosecuted for attempting to cash a fake check. See: http://www.fakechecks.orgScammers Can Collect WU/MG Transfers Even Without Full Or Real Identification Information
Never agree to send money via WU/MG to a relative or friend and then send a partial copy of the receipt or some of the information about the transaction to a third party "to prove" that you actually have the money; or send money via WU/MG to someone and send a partial copy of the receipt or some of the information, withholding the rest until they perform their part of the deal. A scammer can claim the money with minimal information or identification, even if the money was not actually sent to him or her and they will!WU/MG Allows Scammers to Pick up Money in Any Country Regardless of What Country it is Sent To
Just because you send money to the U.K. or some state in the U.S. doesn't mean that it is necessarily picked up there as a scammer in Nigeria could pick up that money. WU/MG both allow a international money transfer to be picked up in any country not just the country the transfer was sent to.WU/MG Allows Scammers to Receive Money Anonymously
WU and MG are well designed for scammers to receive money which is why, perhaps 90% of scammers request money via those methods. Sending money via WU/MG is like giving cash to a stranger on a street corner, having him leave and then hoping he will reappear with whatever goods, services or money he promised you...only its worse because you never even see the stranger and he is hundreds or thousands of miles from you! In many cases, minimum or no identification is required to claim money sent via WU/MG, just the MTCN number, and in some cases that number is not even necessary, just knowing who the money was sent to. You have no assurance the money was retrieved by the person you sent it to and in the case of a scam the person gave you an alias.
A person can get money sent via these services and remain anonymous which is essential to any scam and why they use free email addresses, free classified advertisements, free domain websites, pre-paid mobile telephones and personal forwarding numbers such as telephone numbers beginning with +4470, +44(0)70, or +44070 . As stated by the FTC, once the money is sent, its impossible to reverse the transaction and there are corrupt WU/MG agents and franchises who cooperate with scammers by allowing them to claim money without proper identification for a percentage of the “take.” This was one of the reasons WU and MG were sued. Never Use WU/MG To Pay Someone You Don't Personally Know
Basically, anybody who is not a known relative or close friend who requests money via WU/MG or any other money wire service such as Coinstar, is a scammer, or should be treated as such. Sending money to friends or relatives is the only legitimate reason to use WU/MG.
Many scammers, especially electronic good scammers, pet scammers and romance scammers, will attempt to tell you that they are not strangers because you have exchanged emails, instant messages or telephone calls. They are still strangers, regardless of such interaction.
A stranger, for the purposes of WU/MG is someone you have not physically met and/or have not independently confirmed to be who they state they are. Scammers will tell you that WU/MG is a fast and efficient way to send money, which it is…for scammers! They will tell you that in their country WU/MG is the normal way of doing business, and/or that sums under a certain amount must be paid by WU/MG. Both of these statements are false. They will tell you that other people pay by WU/MG all the time. If those people did, they were scammed. They will probably come up with other similar excuses for you to pay WU/MG.
Scammers will also send you various picture identifications, such as passports, driver's licenses, visas to "prove" their identity so they are not strangers. These are all invariably fake or forged! No legitimate person or businessman would send you his or her passport or driver's license to prove his identity. Only scammers do this.
The more a stranger insists that its okay for you to pay them via WU/MG, the more they are confirming that they are a scammer.
Filing a Fraud Complaint Will Not Get Your Money Back
WU/MG are designed to send cash with very few, if any questions, asked. It's not their responsibility to make sure that you are not defrauded or that you get whatever services or goods you paid for. There job is to send cash to the person you tell them to send it to and that is what you are paying them for. Though, as part of the settlements both WU/MG are supposed to do a better job of alerting their customers about possible frauds, ultimately its up to you to protect yourself. Thus, you can, and should file a fraud complaint, so that WU/MG is at least alerted to the fraud , however, WU/MG fulfilled their obligations once they sent the money and don't expect them to "bail" you out.
Credit Cards Are the Safest Way to Pay For Goods Online
Some scammers posing as "stores" or "companies" will tell you that payment via credit cards is risky. That's untrue. You can dispute a charge on a credit card and have the amount chargebacked or adjudicated fraudulent. That option is not available with WU or MG.
However, in entering your credit card information in any online payment form on a website you must make sure that you are on a SSL secured connection Either look for a lock icon at the bottom of the screen, in the status bar of your browser. If the site is secure, the lock will be closed. If website address begins with https:// - the 's' indicates the site is secure. If the lock is not closed and the website address does not begin with https://
, the store or company is not authorized to accept credit cards and is just phishing, i.e., stealing your credit card information. See Shopping Online Safely.
You are not protected by your credit card chargeback provisions if you pay via WU/MG using a credit card. The transaction is considered a cash advance which does not have the protections a credit card purchase does.
Some online stores or companies will indicate that they accept credit cards, however, when you actually attempt to use these methods of payment you will find that they are not available for various reasons, e.g., their banks are under audit or their banks only accept credit cards for payments above a certain amount.
Bank to Bank Transfer / Telegraphic Money Transfer
The same rules that apply to Western Union/MoneyGram apply to Bank to Bank Transfer. Never send money to someone you don't know using that method. Never use that method of payment to pay for any item purchased online.