A common theme in many scams, including phony lottery scams and the infamous grandparent scam, is that the scammers will require the victim to wire money rather than use a credit card or a check. Once money has been wired, it is all but impossible to trace or stop payment. In response to this problem, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated both Western Union and MoneyGram and settled claims brought against them in 2017 and 2009 respectively. According to the terms of both settlements, the companies made substantial changes in how they did business in order to reduce the amount of scammers using their services.
Earlier this week, the FTC sued Walmart alleging that for years the company was complicit with scammers who used Walmart money transfer wire services to receive payment for a multitude of scams. According to the FTC, between 2013 and 2018, Walmart customers lost between 197 million dollars and 1.3 billion dollars to scams by which payments were made to scammers by way of Walmart money transfer services. For its part, while Walmart did not knowingly participate in the scams, the FTC alleges that they turned a blind eye to such scams, allowing suspicious transfers and having poor policies to prevent such transfers from occurring, all the while collecting millions of dollars in fees for the use of their money transfer services.
First in regard to avoiding scams like this in the first place, whenever anyone you are dealing with requests that payment be made by way of a wire transfer, you should immediately be skeptical because of the near impossibility of getting your money back if the deal is a scam or anything goes wrong. Using a credit card for payment is much safer.
This case against Walmart was only filed this week and it is a long way from being resolved. However, the FTC is asking the court to order Walmart to refund payments to victims of the various scams that used Walmart’s money transfer services. In the past, millions of dollars were refunded to victims of similar scams in which Western Union and MoneyGram were involved and it could well be expected that eventually victims of scams in which money was wired through Walmart’s money transfer services will be getting some refunds. I will, of course, keep you informed as to progress of this case.
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