Eligible Losses Sent Through Western Union Go Back to 2004Each year, BBB receives complaints and Scam Tracker reports from people who describe losing hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of dollars to scams paid through one or more wire transfer(s) made through Western Union. The Federal Trade Commission recently announced persons using Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017 can now file a claim if the transaction resulted in fraud.Victims should act quickly. Claims must be submitted by February 12, 2018. Individual claims will be verified by the U.S. Department of Justice. Refunds will be determined based on the amount of money lost and the total number of claims validated by the DOJ.Using the FTC’s claim criteria, BBB staff examined complaints and Scam Tracker reports to identify potential victims. The analysis found that since 2004, 365 people claimed they had been defrauded after sending payment through Western Union. These allegations were limited to persons residing in the Greater Maryland service area and persons who believed they had made a purchase from a seller based in Greater Maryland. The total amount lost, according to reports, is $350,564.How the scam worksScammers generally lure their victims with pricing or promises that are too good to be true. They craft clever websites, social media profiles, ads, and/or emails with images of precious puppies, sleek and shiny automobiles or once-in-a-lifetime job opportunities and begin trolling for vulnerable “buyers.”In some instances, victims are harmed not once, but twice. After sending an initial payment to the puppy breeder, business, loan officer, etc., he or she is almost always approached a second time. Requests for more money may be disguised as fees, shipping, insurance, etc. According to 2016 research by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, an estimated one-in-four U.S. households and one-in-five individuals are impacted by scams each year.Ultimately, the buyer learns they have been deceived by a scam artist. It’s hard enough to track down the actual location of the scammer, let alone their identity. Many operate overseas, making law enforcement difficult at best. Historically, it’s been virtually impossible to obtain compensation for victims. However, the landmark FTC action provides hope victims will recover at least a portion of the money sent via Western Union.BBB offers the following tips for avoiding scams:Never send, wire, or use a money card to pre-pay people you have not met. These methods of payment cannot be traced and are as good as cash. Don’t believe everything you see. Anything (including Caller ID) can be faked and scammers will go to great lengths to make their websites, emails, logos, etc. look official. Watch for typos and other signs the seller may be operating outside the U.S.Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Scammers will manipulate consumers into thinking they must act quickly, or the opportunity will disappear. This is a tactic to prevent you from researching their information or discussing your plans with a family member, friend, or financial adviser.Whenever possible, work with a local seller. And remember, addresses can be faked too. Do an independent search online for the address of the business. Look to see if it’s a residence or a mailbox service (where mail can be held or forwarded, masking the real recipient’s location and identity). Ask questions if the results don't add up.Check bbb.org. See if the business is BBB Accredited, look at its rating, customer reviews and possible complaints. If you have doubts about the legitimacy of a business or would like to report suspected fraud, go to bbb.org/scamtracker.