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Attorney General's News Release

October 18, 2013

Attorney General Koster announces recovery fund for victims of MoneyGram wire transfer scams

Jefferson City, Mo. – Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster today announced the establishment of a national fund to help consumers who were the victims of scams involving Moneygram wire transfers between January 2004 and August 2009.

MoneyGram International, Inc. (MoneyGram), a global money services business, has agreed to forfeit $100 million to the United States as part of an agreement with the Justice Department. The agreement arose from a case involving approximately 25 MoneyGram agents allegedly carrying out wire scams from 2004 to 2009. The forfeited funds will be returned to victims of scams involving MoneyGram’s wire-transfer service.

Common wire scams involved thieves encouraging unsuspecting victims, often the elderly, to wire money in response to promises of large cash prizes, shopping discounts, or employment opportunities as a "secret shopper." Another common scam involved a false story of a relative in distress, often in another country, in need of an immediate transfer of money. 

The Missouri Attorney General's Office will send letters to consumers who reported a MoneyGram scam during the 2004 to 2009 time period, outlining the process to receive a share of the forfeited funds.  Consumers who lost money as a result of a MoneyGram scam between January 2004 and August 2009 may be eligible for compensation even if they did not file a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General's Office.  If you believe you are an eligible victim of a wire scam you may call the Office of the Attorney General at 800-392-8222. Claims must be filed by November 15, 2013. More information about how to file a claim is available at: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/vns/caseup/moneygram.html.

The Justice Department's Victim Asset Recovery Program will review applications for recovery, and determine restitution on a case-by-case basis.  The amount that each victim will receive will not be determined until all applications are processed.

While this forfeiture will allow some victims to recover lost money, Koster recommends never wiring money to strangers. "Wire transfers are the same as sending cash, making recovery very difficult," said Koster. "Missouri consumers should exercise caution to avoid becoming a victim of a sophisticated wire scam."

Common wire scams include:

  • Items advertised at a price that is "too good to be true." Often advertised online or in newspapers, items are offered at prices that are too good to be true -- but can only be paid for by wire transfer. The victim never receives the item but cannot recover the money wired.
  • Mystery Shopper scam. Victims receive a letter offering an opportunity to work as a mystery shopper and a counterfeit check as payment, with instructions to cash the check and wire a portion of the amount back. When the check later bounces, the victim is out the money they wired.
  • Relative in need. Victims are contacted by someone claiming to have knowledge of a relative, often a grandchild, in trouble in a foreign country. The scammer will tell the victim that they need to immediately wire money to assist the relative in distress.
  • Prize or inheritance scam. Scammers inform a victim that he or she has won a sweepstakes, lottery, or an inheritance from an unknown relative, and instruct the victim to wire funds to cover necessary processing fees or taxes. They never receive a prize or money.

If you believe that you have been a victim of a wire scam, report it immediately to Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 800-392-8222 or file a complaint online.



 
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