Wire transfers commonly used by scammers, AG Madigan warns

ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Wire transfers can be an easy and convenient way to send money, but the I-Team is finding that they are part of a large consumer warning.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and other consumer advocates announced the top 10 consumer complaints of 2016 on Monday. Those experts are also sending an alert, saying one of the most popular ways for scam artists to get your money is through a wire transfer.

"They can get consumer's money quickly; they can do it almost anonymously," said Todd Kossow, FTC Midwest region.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Illinois attorney general's office revealed money transfers and wiring funds are the most common ways consumers lose money when connected to scams.

In January, the FTC and Department of Justice settled a lawsuit with the country's largest money transfer company, Western Union.

"Western Union knowingly allowed scam artists to use its money transfer system to defraud consumers," Kossow said.

Now consumers who think they are defrauded via Western Union money transfer may have recourse.

"If the Western Union agent did not follow proper procedures, then the order requires that Western Union refund the consumer's money," Kossow said.

Western Union said it's committed to protecting consumers, saying: "We have significantly enhanced our compliance program in recent years by adding more employees with law enforcement and regulatory expertise, strengthening our consumer education and agent training," and "bolstering our technology-driven controls."

Western Union also said reports of fraud are low and have dropped more than 60 percent.

And still topping the list of overall consumer complaints, Madigan said, is consumer debt. Consumer debt fraud related to mortgages and banks has been the No. 1 complaint since the economy crashed in 2008, with 24,000 complaints last year.

Education complaints jumped to No. 6 this year. Students said they were victims of predatory "for-profit" school or a bad loan.

"There are individuals who claim that for an up-front payment, they can help reduce your student loan debt, maybe they can even get it forgiven," Madigan said.

The warning was part of National Consumer Protection Week. For more information on resources for consumers and a list of the Top 10 consumer complaints, click here. null
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