Don’t Fall for the Emergency Scam

NOTE: Welcome to Shelley Bernhardt, our newest guest blogger!

Western Union takes the issue of consumer protection seriously.  We commit significant resources – funding, people, and technology – to fight fraud and help consumers protect themselves from falling victim to fraud.  We care about the people who use our services – they work hard for their money, which is why we work hard to educate them about various types of consumer fraud and how to protect themselves.

This summer we are working jointly with Better Business Bureau to promote awareness of emergency scams.  In these schemes, victims are told that their loved one is traveling and needs help.  Scammers make urgent pleas for the victim to send money, often to another country.  Whenever people are vulnerable, fraudsters will generally attack.  You may in fact have friends and family who will be traveling this summer, but don’t allow yourself to fall victim to this scam.

Con artists hack into email or social media accounts and target victim’s friends and family with frantic requests for money. They impersonate the traveler and claim to have an injury, a lost or stolen wallet, or even say they were arrested. Scammers use the information in these accounts to supply enough personal detail to make their requests appear legitimate.

Emergency scams play off peoples’ emotions and strong desire to help friends and family in need.   You should never send money for an emergency situation without verifying that it is a real emergency.  Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.  Tell the caller you’ll call them back at a known or published number, not the number they gave to you.   Check out the story with other family and friends.  Confirm the facts, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.

Western Union partnered with BBB to launch BBB Scam Stopper as a site to help consumers reduce their chances of becoming a victim of a scam. Visitors can sign up to receive BBB Scam Alerts, weekly emails with details on the latest scams reported to BBBs across North America.

Information on scams and how to protect yourself is also available at Western Union’s Consumer Protection Center:

Awareness and education are the best tools we have in the fight against fraud. The more information you have, the better you can help protect yourself.

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About Shelley Bernhardt

Shelley Bernhardt is the Director of Consumer Protection at Western Union, a BBB Accredited Business and National Partner. She is responsible for External Stakeholder Outreach and Consumer Fraud Awareness and Education for Western Union Agents and consumers. Shelley serves on advisory boards for the National Adult Protective Services Association, the National Consumers League LifeSmarts program and Call for Action.