Australian and New Zealand victims of Western Union scams could be entitled to a share of $749 million in compensation

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More than 1000 Kiwis who lost money through scams involving wire service Western Union could be entitled to a share of a global pot of $A749 million in compensation.

Anyone might be forgiven for thinking that sounded “too good to be true” and a scam in itself.

But a spokesman for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Charles Mabbert, confirmed the compensation offer was genuine and said it had been asked for help in getting the message out to victims.

Western Union agreed to set aside the sum for compensation last year following a joint investigation by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the US Justice Department and the US Postal Inspection service.

They had accused the US firm of “aiding and abetting wire fraud” by taking a blind eye to scammers.

David Lacey, Brisbane-based managing director of the Australia and New Zealand National Identity & Cyber Support Service, IDCARE, said it had confirmed with the FTC that Australians and New Zealanders would be entitled to claim a share of the settlement sum.

People who lost money to any kind of scam involving Western Union between 2004 and January 19, 2017, could make a claim, he said.

Lacey said that meant “easily” 10,000 Australians and New Zealanders in total would be entitled to compensation, including at least 1000 Kiwis.

“Wire fraud is such a diverse enabler of frauds such as romance fraud, investment scams, phishing emails and telephone scams.

“The trick is whether those people can prove it. People who lost money in 2004 may have no receipts.”

However, if people had lost money in the past seven years or so, they might be able to request evidence of their losses from Western Union, he said.

IDCARE was looking at other ways to help people prove they were victims.

The FTC has extended the deadline for claims to May 31.

Lacey expected the global pool of $A749 million in compensation would likely be oversubscribed, meaning victims would likely only get a share of their losses.

Since the US government would need to get a handle on the total claims before they were “pro-rata’d”, people might have to wait up to a year for compensation, he said.

Lacey agreed the compensation offer “sounds unbelievable” and cautioned that scammers had attempted to scam people by claiming to be from the FTC and involved in the pay-outs.

Scam victims in Australia and New Zealand should go to www.idcare.org to get more information about claiming compensation, he said.

This article first appeared at Stuff.co.nz. See the original here.

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