Be sure everything is as it seems


You Are Our Partner. While Western Union works hard to help prevent fraud, we believe that fraud prevention is everyone’s responsibility.
Your best defense is to be aware, educate yourself and use good judgment with our informative tips.
Don’t fall victim: Learn how to spot the warning signs of a scam or scammer before it’s too late.


Protect yourself from fraud

Only use Western Union for sending money to friends and family.  Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person and confirm emergency situations before sending money.

Knowing what to look for is the key in spotting the warning signs of a scam and then avoiding it.

Remember, do NOT send money to an individual if you are sending:

  • To a grandchild, friend or family member for an emergency situation you have not personally confirmed
  • To claim lottery or prize winnings
  • To someone you met online
  • For an internet purchase
  • For an employment opportunity
  • For a rental property
  • For a credit card or loan fee

A money transfer can be paid out to the receiver within a very short time.  After the money is paid, you generally cannot obtain a refund from Western Union, even if the transfer was a result of fraud.

Think you’ve been scammed?

If you believe you are a victim of fraud, contact your local Western Union Fraud Hotline at 1-855-273-3142.

Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam

Scammers pose as representatives from phony loan companies and use authentic-looking documents, emails, and websites to appear legitimate. They charge “fees” in advance of making loans. Consumers pay, but the loans never come through. Scammers are long gone and they sometimes regularly change the name of their “businesses” to avoid law enforcement.
This is one variation of a scam called the “advance fee” or “prepayment” scam. Scammers can also lure victims in with promises of investments or inheritance gifts in exchange for a fee. But it all comes down to the same theme: Victims pay money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value and then receive little or nothing in return.

Associated with:
Fake Check scam, Grandparent scam

4 ways to protect yourself against advanced fee and prepayment scams


Emergency scam

Emergency scams play off of peoples’ emotions and strong desire to help others in need. Scammers impersonate their victims and make up an urgent situation—I’ve been arrested, I’ve been mugged, I’m in the hospital—and target friends and family with urgent pleas for help, and money.

Emergency scams also come in all shapes and sizes. There’s the Grandparent Scam where con artists contact the elderly claiming to be their grandchild, urgently asking for money. And the Social Networking Scam where con artists hack into social networking accounts and then target friends with frantic requests for money, claiming injury, arrest, etc.; they do the same by hacking email accounts. They use the information in these accounts to supply enough personal detail to make their requests appear legitimate.

Associated with:
Grandparent scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam

Western Union and Better Business Bureau Partner to Protect Consumers from Emergency Scam


Employment scam

Employment scams generally start with a too-good-to-be-true offer—work from home and earn thousands of dollars a month, no experience needed—and end with consumers out of a ‘job’ and out of money. They generally follow one of three patterns:

1. Scammers pose as a new ‘employer’ and send victims a check to cover up-front expenses, like supplies. Victims deposit the check, buy the necessary supplies and wire any remaining funds back to the scammer. Weeks later, they find out the checks are fake and they’re on the hook for the entire amount.

2. Scammers pose as ‘recruiters’ pitching offers of guaranteed employment or as ‘employers’ extending job offers on the condition that victims pay up front for things like credit checks or application or recruitment fees. Victims pay, but job offers never materialize.

3. Scammers pose as ‘company’ representatives and seek sensitive personal and/or financial information from victims under the guise of doing credit or background checks. They then target victims later on for identity theft.

Associated with:
Mystery Shopping scam, Fake Check scam

3 employment scams and tips to help avoid becoming a victim


Fake Check scam

Fake checks play a starring role in lots of different scams: advance fee or prepayment scams; mystery shopping scams; lottery prize scams, and more. Victims get an unsolicited check or money order and directions to deposit the money and immediately wire a portion of it back to cover various expenses, like processing fees or taxes. Weeks later, victims learn that the checks are counterfeit, but they’ve already wired the money and can’t get it back. And they’re on the hook to pay their banks back for any money they withdrew.

Also see Advance Fee/Prepayment Scam, Mystery Shopping Scam, Employment Scam, Overpayment Scam, Internet Purchase Scam, Lottery/Prize Scam and Rental Property Scam.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Mystery Shopping scam, Employment scam, Overpayment scam, Internet Purchase scam, Lottery / Prize scam, Rental Property scam

3 employment scams and tips to help avoid becoming a victim


Grandparent scam

This scam is a variation on the Emergency scam.

The victim is contacted by an individual pretending to be a grandchild in distress, or a person of authority such as a medical professional, law enforcement officer, or attorney.

The fraudster describes an urgent situation or emergency (bail, medical expenses, emergency travel funds) involving the grandchild that requires a money transfer to be sent immediately.
No emergency has occurred, and the victim who sent money to help their grandchild has lost their money.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Emergency scam

6 tips and insights to avoid the grandparent scam


Internet Purchase scam

In the internet purchase scam, criminals prey on victims who bid on items using an online auction website or service. It generally plays out in one of two ways:

1. Victims win the bid, which is likely a sham or set up, and are told the seller only accepts money transfers for payment. The seller tells the buyer to put the transaction in a fictitious name, or the name of a loved one. Scammers convince victims this protects their money until the goods or services are received. The seller then creates a false ID in the fictitious name and retrieves the funds. The merchandise never arrives.

2. The other variation is when the original auction is legitimate but the victims don’t win the bid. They’re contacted later on by another party offering to sell them the same item under similar terms and instructed to wire the money as payment. The money is sent but the buyer never receives the goods.

Associated with:
Overpayment scam, Rental Property scam, Fake Check scam

Fraud alert: Internet puppy purchase scams rising, Defend yourself from COVID-19 consumer scams


Lottery / Prize scam

Lottery or prize scams follow two similar patterns:

1. A victim gets an unsolicited phone call, email, letter or fax from someone claiming to work for a government agency or representing a well-known organization or celebrity, notifying them that they’ve won a lot of money or a prize. The scammer gains their trust and explains that, in order to collect the winnings, they first have to send a small sum of money to pay for processing fees or taxes. Following these instructions, victims immediately wire the money, but never get their “winnings.” And they’re out the money they paid for “fees and taxes.”

2. Victims get an unsolicited check or money order and directions to deposit the money, and immediately wire a portion of it back to cover processing fees or taxes. Weeks later, victims learn that the checks are counterfeit, but have already wired the money to cover the “taxes” and can’t get it back. And they’re on the hook to pay their banks back for any money they withdrew.

Associated with:
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam, Fake Check scam

7 tips to avoid lottery scams , Avoid falling for sweepstakes scams


Mystery Shopping scam

Mystery shopping scams are popular with criminals who target employment websites. The ploy’s simple: Scammers send victims a check and tell them to use the funds to “evaluate” Western Union’s money transfer service. Victims wire the money only to find out later that the checks bounce and they’re responsible for paying the bank back.

Associated with:
Fake Check scam, Employment scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam

Why offers to become a mystery shopper require lots of scrutiny


Overpayment scam

With overpayment scams, fraudsters play the role of buyer and target consumers selling a service or product. The “buyer” sends the seller a legitimate-looking check, usually drawn on a well-known bank, for an amount higher than the agreed-upon price. They contact an explanation for this overpayment and instruct the seller to deposit the check and wire back the excess funds. Weeks later, the victim learns the check is fake, but is still on the hook to pay the bank back for any money withdrawn.

Associated with:
Internet Purchase scam, Fake Check scam, Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam

Watch your back: Payment scams common in online buying & selling


Relationship scam

The relationship scam starts simply: A man and woman meet on the Internet. The relationship progresses: They email, talk on the phone, and trade pictures. And, finally, they make plans to meet, and even to get married. As the relationship gets stronger, things start to change. The man asks the woman to wire him money; he needs bus fare to visit a sick uncle. The first wire transfer is small but the requests keep coming and growing—his daughter needs emergency surgery, he needs airfare to come for a visit, etc. The payback promises are empty; the money’s gone, and so is he.

Associated with:
Emergency scam

Looking for love on the Internet in 2016


Rental Property scam

Sophisticated scammers use the Internet, and particularly free classified websites, to prey on unsuspecting real estate victims. Rental property scams generally happen in one of two ways:

1. Renters are looking for a house or an apartment to lease and get scammed by an “owner.” Victims come across a place in a great area, at a great price. The advertisement looks legitimate so they start communicating with the “owner,” generally by email. The owner says the place is theirs if they wire money to cover an application fee, security deposit, etc. They wire the money, and then never hear from the “owner” again.

2. Owners are renting out their house or apartment and get scammed by a “renter.” “Renters” contact victims, generally by email, and express interest in renting the house or apartment. Scammers send a check for the deposit but then cancel the deal. Victims wire the money back only to find out the check was a fake.

Associated with:
Internet Purchase scam, Fake Check scam, Overpayment scam

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Protect Yourself—fraud comes in all shapes and sizes

Learn more about the tricks fraudsters use to lure in victims.