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People tricked into wiring money to fraudsters through Western Union have until the end of August to file for a full refund as part of a $586 million settlement reached by the company and the government.

The Department of Justice has already distributed more than $366 million to more than 148,000 victims, many of them elderly, and refunds are still available, with the deadline to file a claim recently extended, according to the Federal Trade Commission. 

People duped into wiring cash through Western Union between January 1, 2004, and January 19, 2017, can get information about filing a claim here, the FTC said. 

Both federal agencies stressed that any requests for payments as part of the process are fraudulent and should be directed to [email protected].

Western Union refunds social media graphic.

Federal Trade Commission

Western Union let criminals use its global money transfer service to carry out “hundreds of thousands” of scams, the company admitted in the 2017 settlement. 

The FTC at the time contended Western Union for “years” knew scammers were using its services but ignored more than 550,000 customer complaints from January 2004 through August 2015. Scammers racked up billions in fraudulent transactions over that time period, the agency said. 

In one scam, criminals would call a Western Union customer and direct them to wire money to claim a prize or to help a relative. Once the money was sent, it could not be recovered. Some Western Union agents went along with the scam for a cut of the profits.

“We acknowledge that in certain instances, mainly from the 2004 to 2012 period of time, the company did not engage in as much oversight as it should have,” a company spokesperson said in 2017. 

The FTC last month filed a lawsuit against Walmart accusing it of similar behavior. Walmart, however, dismissed the allegations and vowed to fight the agency’s suit in court. 

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