Randy Meier

Randy Meier

Anyone who reads more than a few of my columns knows I harp repeatedly on scammers who pressure people to pay for scams using money wiring services, such as Western Union and Moneygram. Anybody in the consumer protection business knew for decades that wiring money is a favorite payment method used by crooks who are intent on defrauding folks. 

Western Union and Moneygram also knew this for decades, but their records on protecting people from fraud committed using their money wiring services look pretty checkered. The U.S. government, through the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), sued both companies in the last five years, charging they willfully or negligently ignored many warnings from their own agents about fraud to their customers. 

Moneygram settled its suit for $100 million, which was later refunded to victims. Western Union settled its suit for $586 million, with that refund process now underway. 

Additionally, the settlements required both companies to put in place internal safeguards designed to vet their agents, train them to spot fraud, and continuously monitor the agents for fraud-related transfers. Sounds like that should have greatly helped curb the millions of dollars crooks cheat out of victims in various shifty scams, right?

In the case of Moneygram, not so much. 

The FTC Nov. 8announced a settlement of yet another lawsuit against Moneygram. It seems Moneygram did a lackluster job of implementing these procedures designed to protect us, allowing thousands of transactions to go through, which looked like fraud. 

How much money did the public lose as a result of this negligence? Well, Moneygram settled for $125 million, which should hint at the scale of their blunder. 

The FTC intends for this $125 million to get refunded to victims of Moneygram-related fraud. We don’t know the exact date range covered by this settlement, beyond knowing it pertains to frauds starting in 2013. 

If you did lose money in a Moneygram fraud in 2013 or later, what should you do? For now, not much. It will take several months to get the claims and refund process underway. 

In the meantime, if you were one of these victims, get your records in order. If you made a police report, get a copy to keep. If you did not make a police report, do so now. It’s important to be ready to act when they start accepting claims. You can contact me with any questions, or to get a police report started. I know from the calls I’ve received since 2013, there are folks out there who lost money using Moneygram. Let’s get ready to re-claim that.

Social Security scammers

Several people called me in the last month, reporting phony robo-calls from people who say they represent the Social Security Administration. The callers claim to be investigating “fraud involving your Social Security number” and ask for a call back. Those folks who call back are questioned about whether anyone used their Social Security number in another state, often Texas. 

In the course of the questioning, these callers persuaded their victims to divulge their Social Security numbers. And in some instances, the callers spin stories about the victim’s Social Security number used to rent a car in Texas, with the car later found abandoned, but with drugs in the car, and blood inside - what we in law enforcement call a crime scene. The victim is enlisted in a scheme to catch the crooks. The scheme involves the victim buying and loading money onto Google Play cards or other gift cards. You know how things go south after you buy these cards. The crooks get people to reveal the card’s PIN on the reverse, and drain the money from the card.

This exact scenario played out for a Clinton man recently, and he came very, very close to losing $1,460. Max, as I will call him, got this call about his Social Security number and the Texas crime scene. He believed it and dutifully bought Google Play cards from Jewel. But lucky for him, something went wrong on the scammer’s end, and they failed to instruct him to reveal the PIN code. Max came to me, with four Google Play cards loaded with $1,460, knowing he dodged a bullet with the criminals, but not knowing how to recover his money from the cards. 

Thanks to excellent cooperation from the Clinton Jewel store director Billy Long and assistant director Lynn Graves, Max got his money back. Long and Graves worked the phones on Max’s behalf until they got the issue resolved. Max was lucky on two counts – the crooks dropped the ball long enough for Max to figure out the truth, and the Jewel staff moved swiftly and efficiently to set the matter straight. 

Contact Seniors Vs. Crime

Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211, Ext. 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.