Dating fraud experts Scamalytics have informed GDI that Western Union must repay $586 million to the victims of online scams.
The US Federal Trade Commission is overseeing the operation after finding that Western Union failed to act responsibly in defence of the American public.
In the FTC press release, Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen stated that: “American consumers lost money while Western Union looked the other way”.
Any victims of online scams who paid money through Western Union between the 1st of January 2004 and the 19th of January 2017 may be eligible for a fraction of the repayment, with five types of scam being (non-exhaustively) listed by the FTC:
- Online or internet scams – you did not receive the items you tried to buy online
- Lottery or prize promotion scams – you were told you won a lottery or sweepstakes, but never got the prize
- Emergency or grandparent scams – you sent money to someone pretending to be a relative or friend in urgent need of money
- Advance-fee loan scams – you paid upfront fees, but did not get the promised loans
- Online dating or romance scams – you sent money to someone who created a fake profile on a dating or social networking website.
Western Union is not expected to repay more than $586 million, so if a large number of successful applications are submitted then victims may receive less than the amount they lost in the scam.
Earlier this week, GDI reported on an academic study that found dating scams have a severe psychological impact on victims, and that they may be worse than regular financial scams.
Consumers can visit FTC.gov/WU to submit a claim, or to learn more about the process. The deadline for claims is the 12th of February 2018.
Scamalytics use machine learning, real-time detection, text pattern analysis and image recognition technologies to continuously improve the dating industry’s largest scammer blacklist. They advise that although December through February is a busy time for dating, it is also “peak scammer period”.
GDI have collaborated with Scamalytics in the past to produce an industry report on online dating fraud. You can read it here.