Are you an American who fell for an online romance scam? Here’s how you can get your money back

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I’ve written a lot about romance and online dating scams in this blog. It always makes me incredibly angry and sad to read about men and women who fell for these scams. These are always kind, helpful people, who naively fall for the sob stories told by these professional criminals and end up losing money, sometimes a lot of money.

But the big news as of last week is that the FTC announced  that it will be forcing Western Union to refund money lost as a result of online scams, including dating scams. This is because “American consumers lost money while Western Union looked the other way.” This is actually a major bit of news, but I’ve not seen it as widely publicised as you’d expect.  As Western Union is the most popular choice for money transfer among online scammers, it stands to reason that a significant amount of American victims used it to transfer funds to scammers. Some people transferred much of their life’s savings to online scammers, so getting even some of that money back could literally save their lives.

If this was you and you were scammed between January 1, 2004 and January 19th, 2017, you could be one of the people to get at least some of your money refunded. There is an upper limit to how much money Western Union is liable for in total, but it’s rather high ($586 million), so can undoubtedly account for a significant amount of cases. The upshot of this is that depending on how many people find out about this and apply, you may or may not get all your money back, but you should at least get some.

Getting Your Money Back

You can file a free claim to get your money back, but you need to do this before February 12, 2018. Full details and instructions are available here. I hope this will not only get people’s money back, but also make companies like Western Union be more vigilant and exercise their duty of care to prevent people from being scammed in the future.

But What If I’m Not in America?

Sadly this development is only good for Americans or those living in America, because that’s where the FTC’s jurisdiction starts and ends. If you were scammed but are in the UK or another country, this will not apply to you. Hopefully this case will serve as a precedent and other countries will follow suit. Although Western Union is an American company, I assume it is required to comply with local regulations in any other country it trades in as well.

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