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Scams and fraud: State warns consumers about sending money by wire

Post by C.R. Roberts / The News Tribune on Jan. 17, 2013 at 11:56 am |
January 17, 2013 11:56 am

No, your grandson has not been mugged in Costa Rica. No, you didn’t really win the Canadian Lottery. No, that guy on the other end of the phone has no right to threaten you.

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions is warning consumers this week to verify the identity of each and every person to whom they send money by wire transfer.

DFI has lately received numerous complaints from consumers who were fraudulently induced to send money to scammers via money transmitters including Western Union and MoneyGram. These companies, licensed by the state, have anti-fraud materials at each of their locations and on their websites, and DFI encourages consumers to review these materials before sending money.

Scams take many forms, DFI said in a release Thursday, and scammers may contact consumers by telephone, e-mail or postal mail. Common scams include:

• Relative in Need – a scammer impersonates a consumer’s family member, commonly grandchildren, and claims there is an emergency requiring the consumer to send money.
• Lottery or Prize – a scammer informs a consumer that the consumer won a lottery or prize and must send money in order to claim it
• Debt Collection – a scammer impersonates a debt collector and induces a consumer to send money through the use of threats
• Purchases, Sales, and Leases – a scammer advises a consumer that the consumer must send money in order to complete a purchase, sale, or lease
• Employment Related – a scammer instructs a consumer to send money through the consumer’s personal bank account in connection with a fraudulent offer of employment

Scammers are located both inside the United States and in various countries worldwide. Recent complaints involved scammers believed to be operating from Canada, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Spain, and Ukraine, DFI said. Consumers should be especially cautious when sending money to these countries.

If you feel you are in immediate danger contact local law enforcement. You may also contact local law enforcement in the jurisdiction where the scammer is located to report fraud.

If you are suspicious of fraudulent activity by a money transmitter, or involving the use of a money transmitter’s services, contact DFI at 877-746-4334 or online at www.dfi.wa.gov.

If you feel you have been the victim of a scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357, or online at www.ftc.gov. If you feel you have been the victim of a scam involving the Internet, contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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