N.H. among states in wire fraud deal

Western Union Financial Services has agreed to post prominent warnings to customers about fraudulent telemarketers that are increasingly requiring consumers to wire money because it is harder to trace, according to an agreement reached Monday with 47 state attorneys general, including Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

A two-year review found 38 percent of transfers from the United States to Canada during 2003 were “fraudulently induced,” according to the agreement.

While Western Union, part of the Denver-based First Data Corp., wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing, it has agreed to pay $8.1 million toward a national consumer awareness program to reach 3 million of the most vulnerable customers.

The scams often tricked consumers into wiring substantial amounts of money through sweepstakes, lottery, advance loan fees and other means.

The company also will pay $400,000 to the states and put warnings on wire transfer forms.

Ayotte said the agreement underscored the importance of enlisting “third parties” like Western Union in the fight against consumer fraud. “Western Union can be proud of having stepped up to the plate in this way and agreed to implement programs and changes to protect our citizens and their customers.”

She said the consumer warning in particular “is extraordinarily clear and prominent and should be used as a model for consumer disclosures in the future.” – NHBR STAFF

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