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#252918 by Sue Donym Tue May 26, 2015 2:47 pm
So, I've come here to introduce myself. As I mentioned elsewhere on this forum, I run a small shop wherein I offer Western Union money transfer services. I'm sure that Western Union is (in)famous amongst Scamwarners, so I'd like to do something positive about that.

I do all that I can to prevent my customers from becoming the victims of scams and Western Union offers its agents a lot of good training and resources to help their agents achieve this. However, I have come across a couple of situations in my time as an agent that the the training and I were ill-equipped to deal with.

One such situation involved a customer who worked in the Indian Takeaway next door to me. He wanted to send money to a woman in the US. He filled in his part of the send form but, when it got to the part of the form where he needed to enter the receiver's details, he handed me his smartphone and said that all the receiver's details were on there and that he would appreciate my help in filling in the form based on those details. Displayed on his smartphone was an email that I recognised straight away as a textbook romance scam. I asked him a few subtle questions to try to nudge him into realising that he was about to become a victim if he went through with the transfer (e.g. "Why does your fiancée need to send her 'account manager' to pick up money for a plane ticket?") but he was adamant that he wanted to send the money; he told me that he had actually met this woman and knew her well. I did my best to dissuade him, but to no avail. It didn't help that his English wasn't up to much.

This posed me with a dilemma. If I refused point blank to send the money, I imagine that the following would have occurred:

1. He emails the scammer telling her that I refused to do the transaction because I believed that he was being scammed.
2. The scammer replies assuring him that she isn't a scammer. She tells him to send the money from another agent and to make sure that he doesn't reveal the offending email to the other agent.
3. He sends the money though another agent who is unaware that he is a victim of fraud and thus fails to warn him as such.

I might have been able to ring up Western Union and get a block put on to prevent him from sending money to this scammer with another agent, but, even then, the scammer might have told him to send money to one of her friends (or aliases) or to use another money transfer service which didn't yet have a block on the scammer. A similar problem would eventually present itself if I sent the money but then called Western Union to put a hold on it as a suspicious transaction.

To buy myself some time, I sent the transaction but then got it put on hold. Luckily, my husband is originally from Bangladesh (the same country as the customer). I asked my husband to have a word with the customer. He relayed back to me that when the customer had said that he had 'met' the scammer, what he meant was that he had met her in an online chatroom - which my husband explained is not the same as meeting face-to-face. My husband made the customer see sense - helped by the fact that, as soon as the customer had emailed the scammer with the MTCN from the held transaction, she had asked him to send more money so that she could have a wedding party before she left the US. The customer got his money back and was prevented from losing his money - though I'm sure that he was hurt emotionally far more than he would have been financially.

But I would like to know what you scamwarners would have liked to have seen me do in that situation in the absence of a Bengali husband. Aside from the options above, I could have tried talking to his boss whose English is better, but I wouldn't have liked to have breached the customers privacy or confidentiality in that way. Or I could send the money, but only to ensure that he would return to me - an agent who knew of his situation and remind him that he was being scammed - rather than gone to another agent who would not have warned him.

Perhaps this could also be a useful thread for people who think they might be being scammed to ask about Western Union procedures. A lot of scammers will tell you stuff about how Western Union works that isn't true to trick you into thinking that the money you've sent is secure when it's not. You should NOT let a scammer educate you on how Western Union works! Asking your local agent would be preferable but, if you prefer the anonymity of the internet, then I'll be happy to answer questions as well as I can.

DISCLAIMER: I am just a lowly agent whose posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Western Union. Please bear in mind when asking me anything that, in the eyes of the powers-that-be of Western Union, I am barely one step up from the average consumer. I do not hold the power to change the procedures of Western Union; I can only state what they are as far as I know and follow any good advice I'm given about how I can protect any scam victims I personally serve.
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#252945 by vonpaso xlura Tue May 26, 2015 6:55 pm
Welcome to Scamwarners! Good job saving the Bengali from the scam.

Pointing out that Western Union doesn't work the way the scammer says it does is good, as long as you don't point out to the scammers (who read the forum sometimes) how it does work. We don't want to educate scammers.

Scammers often target people who don't know English well, either in English or in their language. I answer in French, Spanish, or sometimes Italian or Portuguese if the post indicates that that is the poster's first language. (My sig is Spanish for "nor will scammers inherit the kingdom of God.") Please answer in Bengali if a Bengal, or anyone speaking a close enough language, needs help avoiding a scam.

... ni los estafadores heredarán el reino de Dios. 1 Cor. 6:10
#253064 by Sue Donym Wed May 27, 2015 1:18 pm
Well, I'll have to get my husband to look at any posts in Bengali, which will mean that there will be quite a wait for a reply, but I'll do my best. My Bengali isn't up to much at all; the few words that I do know would be the sort that most Bengalis would already know the English equivalent of anyway (Hello, Yes, No etc). If I was in any way fluent, I would have spoken with the customer in Bengali myself rather than sending the (held) money to buy time till I could send my husband to do it.

Thanks for the warning about being careful not to educate any scammers reading - I hadn't thought of that to be honest! I will try to keep a balance between helping victims and not educating scammers - although, even without my help, the scammers are probably able to keep themselves pretty well-informed about Western Union's procedures.

I actuality, a lot of scammers will reel in their victims not by lying about Western Union's procedures, but rather by informing their victims of real procedures to assure the victim that their money is safe; the scammer will, however, neglect to inform their victim that the scammer uses an agent who is dishonest enough to bend the rules upon receipt of a sufficient bribe from the scammer.

Western Union itself won't say this outright for fear of damaging its reputation (it gives general advice like "Changing the receiver's name at the last minute won't prevent a fraudster from collecting your money," but it doesn't go into details about how a fraudster might be able to receive a transaction you sent to a family member despite official ID requirements that are supposed to prevent this), but the question a consumer needs to ask himself is not so much "Am I being told the truth about Western Union's procedures?" As it is "Would a corrupt agent be able to bend the rules in a scammer's favour?"

I actually once had a customer ask me to assist him with flipping (that's the WU AML [Western Union Anti Money Laudering] term for "Receiving a lot of money and then immediately sending all or most of it on to someone else").He seemed to be pretty au fait with what WU's procedures are and how they might be bypassed. He offered me a [s]bribe[/s] commission of 5% of the principal amount (i.e. the amount sent/received excluded fees) per transaction. Of course I refused but I can see how an agent with fewer scruples than me might have been tempted.

When I tried to report this incident to the WU AML team they said that without any information beyond "This guy came in and acted suspiciously," they wouldn't be able to do much. According to them, I should have agreed to process a transaction for him then feigned technical difficulties and passed the info he gave for the transaction on to them. However, being au fait as he was with WU, he would:
a) Have given me false details - especially for the first transaction.
b) Realised what I was up to when I feigned technical difficulties.

As he's a criminal, I would not have felt safe doing this. When I spoke to the WU rep I deal with, he said I could have made a CD with CCTV of the incident and submitted it to either WU on the police to see if the customer could be identified and investigated. This would have been a great idea if only he'd thought of it some time before my DVR had long since automatically deleted the CCTV of the incident.

TL;DR: A scammer might tell a victim the truth about WU's procedures - the problem usually lies with a shady agent.

Perhaps anyone who has questions could send me a private message? That way I could reply without publicly posting information that might be of assistance to any lurking scammers. Though there is still the risk that a scammer might abuse this to obtain information that we wouldn't want them to have. Any ideas as to how I could help genuine potential victims without inadvertently helping scammers posing as victims?

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