In my last exciting installment, I expressed my frustration at an unnamed local bank for allowing the transfer of $60,000 out of my client's online bank account directly into the hands of scammers via Western Union. Western Union is the undisputed king of aiding and abetting scammers. In 2017, Western Union settled a consumer fraud case with the Justice Department and Federal Trade commission and forfeited over a half-billion dollars in refunds to victims of fraud. Millions of victims have gotten all of their money back. Western Union agreed to implement anti-fraud programs designed to protect consumers from scammers. They are obviously not holding to the agreement.
On top of the ineptitude exhibited by Western Union in protecting my client, the unnamed local bank shares much of the blame, too. Banks have the technology to alert a bank employee of unusual transactions from a retail client--especially one involving Western Union. Of course, I understand that banks have an obligation to move money rapidly at a client’s request but, doggonit, it would have been so easy for someone at the bank to receive a beep on their computer alerting them that a local client wants to transfer thousands of dollars to a company known for aiding and abetting scammers. They failed.
So what can you do if you or a loved one happens to fall for a bank scam? Here are a few tips that you should keep in mind.
First, complain everywhere as soon as possible and provide as much documentation as possible. If you’re a victim of a computer scam, turn your computer off until a technician can look at your computer. Then call your bank, the local police (who generally won’t be interested but call them anyway), and the FBI. Time is of the essence. Gift card companies, the FBI, the FTC, the Postal Service, and others are looking out for scammers and may have methods to block the victim’s payment to the scammer or assist the victims in recovering money. But none of this can happen unless the victim issues a complaint with the appropriate entity, and you won’t know who the appropriate entity is until you start complaining.
The government has a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that has a victim recovery fund that can be used to compensate victims of fraud. But, again, victims need to act fast. Even “cash card” fraud victims can get the funds reversed under some circumstances.
I really need much more column space to explain all the ways that victims can get help, but the main thing to know is that, if you become a victim, help is available -- but only to those who ask for it.
Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com