The ACCC is urging scam victims to act quickly to get their money back.
Western Union has agreed to pay a penalty of US$586 million to the United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ) after admitting to aiding and abetting wire fraud.
The DOJ is using this penalty to provide refunds to eligible people worldwide who were tricked into paying scammers via Western Union.
All wire transfers made through Western Union within and outside of the US between 1 January 2004 and 19 January 2017 may be eligible for a refund.
Australian consumers can use an online form or apply by post to have the money they lost refunded by the DOJ.
As this is a US-based action, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is unable to make claims on consumers’ behalf or assist them with their claims.
“Scamwatch hears heartbreaking stories on a daily basis from Australians who have lost money to scammers by wiring funds through Western Union. Over $5 million is reported lost each year to these scams but this is just the tip of the iceberg as many victims don’t contact us,” ACCC Acting Chair Michael Schaper said.
“The sad reality is that in most cases, once you have fallen victim to a scammer, the money is gone – and there’s nothing you can do to get it back.
“For people who have wired money via Western Union from 2004 until 2017, this may be your chance to recover some of it. There are no guarantees but we strongly encourage you to try by 12 February.”
Scammers often promise prizes, loans, jobs, discounted products and other financial rewards in exchange for sending money upfront through untraceable wire transfers.
They also pretend to be family members in urgent need of cash, or law enforcement officers demanding payment for fines, or countless other excuses, but no one ever receives the cash, prizes or services they were promised by scammers.
Have you ever been scammed? Did you use a Western Union wire transfer? Will you be seeking a refund now?