Thousands of Americans look to recover money lost in wire transfer scams

A terrifying call led a woman to send more than $1,000 to what turned out to be scam artists, but there's good news for her and half-a-million other Americans who've been ripped off.

It all started with a call, out of the blue, to Veronica's cell phone a few years ago.

“They said my father was in an accident, and that he had hit a kid, and that he tried to run,” Veronica said.

Veronica said the callers told her not to tell anyone she was on the phone, especially police. 

“If I did any sort of thing that wasn't ok, they said that it was going to be my fault that my father died,” Veronica said.

The only way she could get her father back, and safe, was to send as much money as possible to the person on the other end.

She immediately sent $1,500 through Western Union.
After that, the caller told Veronica to pick up her dad at Little Company of Mary Hospital. She drove there and waited, terrified. 

“Just the fact alone that they asked me to wait in a hospital was scary enough,” Veronica said.

The money was sent. But Veronica would soon learn the entire rouse was fake. Her dad was fine but the cash was gone.

Veronica chalked up the loss but then received a letter in the mail last month saying she might be able to get her money back.

Todd Kossow with the Federal Trade Commission said the forms were legitimate and there's more than a half billion dollars ready to go back to victims who sent money through Western Union.

The reasons people sent money range from IRS scams to a counterfeit check scams all the way to the kidnapping scam Veronica fell for. 

As part of a settlement with the FTC and Department of Justice, Western Union admitted it didn't maintain an effective anti-laundering program.

“They failed to do enough to prevent it,” Kossow said.

Roughly half a million consumers got these forms. If you didn’t, you can still file a claim at, just provide documentation, such as a receipt from the transfer.

“Obviously this is a for-sure thing so I'm definitely going to try and make a claim,” Veronica said.

You have to act soon.The deadline for filing a claim is coming in February 2017. Moving forward, Western Union must monitor for fraud more closely.

Still, the FTC warns not to give money to someone you don't know through a transfer service.

“You should not do it. Because sending a money transfer is like sending cash or giving somebody cash,” Kossow said.

Anyone who submits a claim that's verified by the government should expect to get money back in about a year.

The amount of money you'll get back depends on how many legit claims the government receives.

Western Union told FOX 32 it shares the government’s goal of protecting consumers from fraud and is fully cooperating with the terms of the settlement. They released the following statement regarding the claims: 

  • The November 13 announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) relates to the January 19, 2017, settlement between Western Union and DOJ, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. 
  •  Pursuant to the settlement, Western Union agreed to pay funds to the federal government to be used to reimburse consumers who were victims of fraud. 
  • DOJ’s statement on November 13 indicates that the reimbursement process has begun, and that DOJ will be sending consumers information about submitting a claim. 
  • Western Union shares the government’s goal of protecting consumers from fraud and is cooperating fully with DOJ to see that consumers are reimbursed in accordance with the terms of the settlement.