WESTERN UNION & FRAUD INFORMATION
This info still current and valid as of 2008
UPDATE 17 MAY 2002
UPDATE 9 JUN 2003
UPDATE 6 SEP 2003
UPDATE 9 JUN 2003: IF YOU USE A WESTERN UNION WIRE TRANSFER TO PAY FOR A PURCHASE ONLINE, YOU WILL HAVE YOUR MONEY STOLEN AND WILL NEVER SEE YOUR ITEM OR YOUR MONEY AGAIN. THERE IS NO WAY TO SECURE A WESTERN UNION WIRE TRANSFER AND NO WAY TO RECOVER YOUR MONEY. PLEASE DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM AND DO NOT LET YOUR ASSOCIATES, FRIENDS OR FAMILY FALL FOR THIS SCAM.
Update 17 May 02 - TAG has been receiving emails revealing a new twist on the old WU wire transfer scam. The seller will tell you that he can insure your safety if you send the money to them but only provide the control number and use a fictitious ID. Once you get the item you purchased, you can then give the seller/scammer the correct name. One seller/scammer said you could have a secret question and answer, and the money would only be released to the person having the secret Q&A. This is NOT TRUE!!! All the seller/scammer needs is the control number to get the money. UPDATE 9 JUN 2003: We have now heard that the seller/scammer does not even need the control number to get your money - all they need to know is that the money is coming and they will get it.
Update 17 May 02 - TAG talked to Western Union today, and WU said there is absolutely no truth to the claim that either of these methods will protect the buyer. WU said that none of the buyers are receiving their merchandise when the item was paid for using a wire transfer, and to tell our readers DON'T DO IT!!! If WU itself is saying not to use their wire transfer service to purchase items, TAG hopes buyers will use some common sense and NOT use WU wire transfers to buy items!!! If a seller requires a wire transfer to buy an item, particularly for an overseas purchase IT IS A SCAM!!!!! DON'T DO IT!!!
PLEASE pass this information on to everyone you know who is buying or thinking about buying online. Save your friends and family thousands of dollars. Feel free to send them to this web page to check the veracity of the information. This is one time when one of those mass emailings to everyone in your email address book might actually do some good. Make sure you provide a link to this website so they can verify the information and know it is not another hoax email. The page link is
UPDATE 9 JUN 2003: WHAT CAN YOU DO?
As stated before, you will not be able to recover your money or get your item, but you can take actions to prevent this from happening to others. TAG thinks that since Western Union is taking no action to prevent this fraud from continuing, they need to be forced into action. We think that Western Union should be required by law to warn every person sending a wire transfer, that the wire transfer is designed to send money to friends and family and people you know, NOT TO PURCHASE ITEMS FROM STRANGERS. If Western Union gave this warning, it would greatly reduce this scams effectiveness. This would cost Western Union nothing as it would only take a few seconds to do, but it could be very effective in giving buyers that last nudge that they are not acting in their own best self interest.
How do we force Western Union to do this? Write, call or visit your state and federal representatives (or your international equivalent of government representative), and explain to them why you think Western Union should be forced to give this warning. If you have had your money stolen via a Western Union wire transfer, write to your state's Attorney General and ask him/her to force Western Union to give this warning. States regulate Western Union wire transfers already, we think this warning should be added to every Western Union wire transfer transaction. To contact your Congressional rep go to -
Search Google to find your state website, attorney general and other links.
File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau against Western Union, for not giving you this warning. Western Union is well aware of this scam, and they should take at least this simple step to prevent it. You can contact the Better Business bureau through this link -
Better Business Bureau
Update 6 Sep 03 - we see that WU has added a fraud prevention page to their site at - Fraud Faq, though TAG does not begin to feel this is adequate.
15 Aug 01
TAG recently was in the market for a new computer or two. As we normally do with the majority of our purchases, we sought to buy this equipment online. In our attempt to buy, we uncovered a form of fraud, selling non existent computers using wire transfers, with Western Union being the favorite of the scammers.
Here is what happens. You bid on and win a computer (probably the same thing happens with other big ticket items) listed with a location in the US. They take charge cards - so you know you have charge back protection, even though they have no or low feedback. You get the end of auction notice from the auction house (ebaY, Yahoo, ZDnet) and it has US contact info. You contact the seller and receive a (usually) auto-response, or form email that congratulates you on your win and please send your money to an address in Italy, Austria etc via wire, and they will ship your computer stat. Yeah right...
We talked to Western Union and asked if there was any recourse if the item was not shipped - answer - NO. We asked them what they were doing about these situations - answer - basically nothing. If the seller is reported, in writing (at least they let us do this via email) they will block that particular name and address (maybe) from receiving funds, but they are well aware that the person will just repeat the process using new info. They do nothing to pursue any of these scammers. To report a fraudulent or suspected fraudulent online seller, send copies of all information to
ATTN: Debbie Joyner
What are the auction houses doing about this? basically nothing. We could not even get Yahoo and ZDnet to suspend the sellers, despite plenty of proof. Just got form answers back and a big ho hum.
A buyer should NEVER complete an auction where the money is via wire transfer and going overseas when the item was supposed to be located in the US. Any change in terms of the auction (location, payment type etc) makes the auction null and void, though as far as we know, none of the auction sites will protect you from neg feedback. Your explanation of the neg should be enough to tip off future buyer/sellers, but it still stinks. We warn EXTREME caution when the terms of an auction ask you to send money by Western Union wire - particularly overseas, and definitely do not EVER send such money when the term was NOT in the auction.
If no one falls for this - this scam will end - but it sure looks as if neither Western Union or the Online Auction Houses will do anything about it.
On a VERY positive note, we did find a real honest to goodness person selling online, with great prices, phenomenal merchandise, lightspeed delivery, absolutely honest and up front! They have great feedback and deserve it all! If you need computer equipment, we are happy to recommend - bears2books Update 6 Sep 03 - Bears to Books is no longer selling on ebaY. - TAG
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