Agreement with Western Union to fight fraud, announces AG Cooper
Release date: 11/14/2005
Cooper helped negotiate national agreement to protect consumers from telemarketing scams
Raleigh: Fraudulent telemarketers and other scammers will have a harder time stealing money from consumers under a multi-state agreement with wire service Western Union, Attorney General Roy Cooper said today.
“For too long, wire transfers have given telemarketing fraud artists an easy way to drain a victim’s bank account quickly,” said Cooper. “This agreement will make it harder for scammers to rip off unsuspecting people.”
Wire transfers are commonly used by fraudulent telemarketers and other scammers to trick consumers out of their money quickly. For example, some telemarketers pitch a “lottery” scam telling consumers they’ve won a large prize but must wire money to pay taxes or other charges before they can claim their winnings. As soon as the consumer wires the fee, the telemarketer pockets the money but the promised prize fails to materialize.
According to an analysis by North Carolina and six other states, nearly one-third of Western Union transfers of more than $300 from the U.S. to Canada, where many telemarketing rings operate, were the result of fraud in 2002. Almost 65 cents of every dollar wired from North Carolina to the four largest provinces in Canada went to fraud artists. Total American consumer losses to Canadian fraudsters alone were estimated at $113 million.
Cooper and nine other attorneys general negotiated the agreement on behalf of 48 states. The agreement will crack down on fraudulent transfers by adequately warning consumers who wire money, educating high-risk consumers, and changing Western Union’s practices. Under the agreement, Western Union will:
- Pay $8.1 million for consumer counseling by the AARP Foundation to reach 3 million vulnerable consumers nationally over 5 years.
- Provide refunds to any consumer who requests, prior to pickup, that a transfer be stopped and who reasonably claims that the transfer was caused by fraud.
- Place prominent warnings to consumers about the dangers of fraud-induced wire transfers on the front of its forms. Similar warnings are also required for transfers made by telephone and Internet.
- Block transfers from specific consumers or to specific recipients when the company receives information from a state that there is reason to believe that fraud will occur.
- Train its employees to help prevent wire-fraud and send them monthly anti-fraud emails.
- Develop a computer system to spot fraud-induced transfers before they are completed, and increase its anti-fraud staff.
Cooper is a longtime advocate for consumer rights against telemarketers and fraud artists. He pushed through the state’s Do Not Call law to give people the right to decide who calls them at home. He has since taken action to stop dozens of telemarketers from breaking the Do Not Call law, winning nearly $250,000 from violators.
Cooper’s Telemarketing Fraud Task Force works to fight telemarketing fraud
, pursuing fraud rings in the United States and abroad. Consumers can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry and learn how to report suspected lawbreakers at www.ncdoj.gov
“My office will keep going after telemarketers that break the law, but the best way to fight fraud is to stop it from happening in the first place by educating consumers,” said Cooper.
Contact: Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413