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 A revelation at Western Union

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Scammy Scameroo
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:31 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

On my lunch break, I was walking around town and I noticed a Western Union office on one of the side streets. I realised I'd never bothered going into a real, live Western Union office, and I was quite curious to see what their actual forms/procedures looked like, so I wandered in.

I asked the man at the Western Union if I could take some sample receipts, he said he wasn't allowed to give me any but would happily show them to me. Incidentally, they look nothing like any of the generated or shopped forms I've seen!

But then we got to talking. I mentioned I was a scambaiter, he didn't understand. At all. I explained that Western Union was often used in 419 scams. He still didn't really follow anything I was saying, until suddenly there was a glint of understanding in his eyes, and he explained to me how a few months ago he had fallen for a fake cheque scam. He got lucky, the bank didn't clear the cheque, but it never crossed his mind that it might be a scam even though he works at the sodding Western Union.

In my baits, "The Man At The Western Union" is always a sage, a guru, who answers every question and solves every problem. He's a source of warnings and advice, and always keeps my lad on his toes. In real life, however, it appears The Man At The Western Union is every bit as clueless and poorly trained as a lad would hope. Crying or Very sad

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El Nombre
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:39 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

i only discovered in the last couple of weeks that theres a Western Union in my town, although to be fair, the only thing indicate it was a WU office was a tiny sign hanging well above the door, not entirely sure over which door either Laughing

but that does answer something i was wondering about recently,i wondered why the "man in the Western Union" lets all these trtansfers to West Africa go ahead, but evidently, some don't even realise why its actually going there

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Axci_Dent
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 2:00 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Of course they send them on to the scammers as they make a profit from doing so.
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bethc8
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 3:48 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

It would be nice if WU required the reciever to have their picture taken and to leave a fingerprint? That way anyone who felt they were being scammed would at least have a pic and finger print of the reciever? But I'm sure that WU is not going to do that voluntarily?
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Scammy Scameroo
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 4:04 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

It's unlikely. Commercially, it's in Western Union's best interests to APPEAR to be doing everything possible to combat online fraud, whilst actually doing absolutely nothing at all to combat online fraud.

If they actually gave a shit about the victims of scams, they could simply make the employees partially liable for fraudulent transactions- in the same way as UK bar workers can be fined for selling drinks to kids. I imagine that if their wages were at stake, their staff would suddenly care quite a lot more how realistic the IDs look and whether the addresses are correct. Of course, WU would lose a huge amount of business if they did that, so they won't.

I'm very much not a fan of that company.

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Leanne
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 4:43 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

^^^ Fair point about it being commercially better for them to accept these payments. I'd still like something to be done about it, like us all though.

In most countries if you want to open a bank account, banks are required by law ask for some proof of identity / address etc to reduce fraud. Why shouldn't it be the same for WU or moneygram?

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 4:49 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

My man at the WU office says that a MTCN is not needed at all and seems only interested in looking down my blouse. After my third trip back to the office he always gives me a 9 digit number.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:45 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

To be fair to WU and MG, they are meant to be used as a means to send money to people you know, such as family and friends. And not every country and every citizen in each country, especially less developed ones, have adequate IDs.

Imagine you somehow lost your ID and money in a foreign country while on a trip. A family member was willing to send you money via WU. How would you pick it up if you were required to show ID?

Or you are working in one country and wanting to send support to family in another country. Maybe they live in a place that there is little reason for them to have ID; how would they pick up the money?

I am not arguing that WU and MG couldn't do a better job with education of 419 scams. But we have to remember, the majority of users are legitimate and have very good reasons for sending money to friends/family by this service. Our views tend to get a little skewed since we deal with scammers and victims all the time.

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RayAdverb
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:58 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I've seen a couple Western Union offices around town here, and really they're not like, banks or shops devoted to Western Union. I see a regular store that happens to have the facilities to handle Western Union transfers. I know off the top of my head that there's one at the news stand (an enclosed store, not like some street vendor), there's one at the Rite-Aid pharmacy up the road. There's one at the Pathmark supermarket down on the west side of town. There's one at a video rental place a few doors down from the place where I get my sushi cravings satiated. They're pretty ubiquitous. They're like lottery sales locations.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:16 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

My local supermarket sends WU from its service desk. I think most of us are so used to using a bank for sending money that we didn't really care or notice all the Western Union outlets around us until we started scambaiting.

Through baiting I've gotten the impression that in Western Africa that most banks also have WU outlets. When I ask the lads all the moronic questions about how to do the whole WU process (wish I had a nickel for the times I've done that Laughing), many times they tell me to go to my bank to do it! Of course, my character dutifully goes to her bank and doesn't find one there...ever. Hence, more piggies in the siggy. Very Happy

It really sucks that scammers use WU so heavily but I have to agree that it's not really WU's job to try to stop it. After all, they do have a number of legitimate customers using its service. Quizzing people on why they are sending any money anywhere is IMO not really their business.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 2:24 am Reply with quoteBack to top

In Australia, All post offices [Australia Post] are automatically also Western Onion outlets. And that's it, there are no seperate specific Western Onion
Offices . So even little sub -agencies in small country settlements have a WU sign.

I've yet to locate a Money Grab outlet..

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:19 am Reply with quoteBack to top

my local newsagent is a WU outlet and I know he doesn't give a toss for chrissake he even tried to diddle me on a book of first class stamps Mad needless to say he lost my patronage

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:29 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Some in the UK have the same free 0800 number, and I don't see how this works. Any ideas?
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:52 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Post Offices in the UK do it and also a lot of the second hand / pawnbroker places like Cash Generator or Cash Convertor do it as well.

A lot of the issues with security come precisely because WU is a sideline in places were the assistants or clerks aren't on a great wage and more than likely a little understaffed and constantly harried.

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thud419
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 9:43 am Reply with quoteBack to top

In my opinion Western Union are walking a careful line. If they address the scammer problem in the wrong way, then they may be found liable for it. There is also the problem of false positives; stopping scammers will impact innocent customers, and there is nothing more infuriating than being an innocent customer falling foul of stupid anti-crime measures.

However I do think they have a responsibility not to mislead their customers. There should be clear and binding rules about where a transfer may be picked up and what documentation and information is required to do so. The level of security in a transaction should be as clear as possible to every customer.

Western Union cannot trust their clerks. Transactions should only be accessible on the Western Union system in the sender's and the recipient's countries. If the MTCN is not required, then it should not be given to the customer. The MTCN should not be a "magic" way of picking up the funds. There is absolutely no need for the customer to have access to such a device. Identifying a transaction by MTCN for the purposes of paying-out should be a clear and severe breach of regulations, and it is pretty easy to detect it.

To replace the MTCN, the WU system could generate a random number string as the "Answer", instead of using a question and answer that is hopelessly insecure in the vast majority of cases. (Leaving aside the scammers and their "colour of sky" question, how many times do you have to send money home to your rural village, before the WU clerk could guess there was a transaction due, what names were being used, and the answer to the question?) The difference to the MTCN, is that this "Answer" could not be used to access the transaction on the WU system.

To my mind, there should be a clear difference between transactions that require ID and those that don't. The customer should have to sign to accept that the transaction may be picked up without ID. In fact it should be a different form, without a recipient name - if they're not going to check ID, then putting any name is false security. Maybe replace it with a second question/answer pair.

These measures would not stop scammers, but they would make it much more difficult for them to pick up funds somewhere other than the address on the form, and save a few victims.

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Scammy Scameroo
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 10:11 am Reply with quoteBack to top

^^^^ You're speaking sense right there.

You know, I'm actually kinda surprised that Western Union/Moneygram have never had any kind of presence here. I'm not sure if they would be supportive of what we do or just angry that we keep sending scammers into their outlets to pick up non-existent payments, but I would certainly expect them to have noticed 419 Eater and said something about it...

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Dorothy
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 10:40 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Quote:
Of course they send them on to the scammers as they make a profit from doing so.


I am going to be the one to step in and defend WU and moneygram here.

Of course, there are some jerks working at some branches, just as there are jerks working at your local grocery store and every other place of business. And you will always find unscrupulous salespeople who just want to make the sale.

And there are many outlets that are staffed by general store personnel who don't do WU/MG transactions full-time and really have no clue--around here, many branches are in WalMart stores, and the employees who work there would probably be happy to warn victims--but the truth is, the employees are probably as likely to fall for a scam as anyone.

But--I have also seen many cases in which victims went to send the money and the clerk specifically warned them or tried to stop them. There's even a recent link posted somewhere around here where a guy at WU posted the video from the security cam where he tried to reason with a man who was sending money for a pretty clear scam. The problem is, the victim sending money is often so deeply hooked that they won't listen to some perfect stranger telling them that the money they are counting on will never happen, or that the man or woman they think they are going to marry is not real.

I agree that the security rules should be clearly spelled out, but unfortunately, I also think it would not have a huge impact. In general, the people who get to the stage of sending money to a scammer are going to be the people who don't pay attention to those details anyway.

And the majority of payments are probably picked up in the country they are sent to--just look at the number of mules have we found in the US alone who are picking up payments and forwarding them to the scammer.

I do believe they can do more--don't get me wrong--but the longer I have been involved in dealing with 419 scammers and victims, the more I realize that WU and moneygram are not the bad guys.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 11:07 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I noticed a few WU signs up outside newsagents particuarly in the southside of Glasgow. At first I thought this must be a scammers nest but then realised there's a large African community only in that area and it's probably the only method of people to send money back to support their family. ofc some of these people hold professional jobs so didn't think anymore of it.

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devil_woman
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 8:47 am Reply with quoteBack to top

If their main purpose is to help imigrant workers send money back to their families there will be a reasonable limit to the amount an individual has available to send.

Online there is a limit to the amount sent in a 30 day period (£500)but at their offices I believe the limit to be £2,000 per transaction.

Western Union make one rule for online transactions and another for tranasactions done at agent's office.

If they rigidly stuck to the £500 per MONTH limit some scammers would be deterred a bit!

thud 419 says
Quote:
Western Union cannot trust their clerks. Transactions should only be accessible on the Western Union system in the sender's and the recipient's countries. If the MTCN is not required, then it should not be given to the customer. The MTCN should not be a "magic" way of picking up the funds.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 2:19 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I believe the MTCN is used because in the case of immigrant workers sending money back to their families, some of those families have no identification papers. Such papers are expensive (bribes, you know), and honest poor people simply can't afford them. Also a traveller stranded and having lost a passport may need some immediate funds before the Embassy comes through with assistance. The American Embassy in some cases does eventually come through, but I've heard some horror stories about insensitive (sadly, usually local native) employees who give stranded Americans the royal runaround.

However, the explanation for being able to pick up the money anywhere in the world doesn't wash with me. If you're sending money to a stranded traveller or migrant's family in, say Brazil, that person or family is unlikely to have gone off to Cote d'Ivoire between contacting you and going to pick up the money.

What is needed is a more secure method of ensuring that the person picking up the money is indeed the person the sender thought he was sending to, beginning with location. As it is now, the scammer gets all the identifying info needed - including the test question and answer (which they usually supply, BTW) from the victim, and he has a complicit clerk at the WU or MG office who will hand him the money in Nigeria or wherever, even if it was sent to the UK. If WU (and MG) had a hard-and-fast rule that someone in Benin cannot collect money sent to France, and followed up with pulling licenses of those who don't follow it, that might make a little difference.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 3:01 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

@ Titania

Quote:
If WU (and MG) had a hard-and-fast rule that someone in Benin cannot collect money sent to France, and followed up with pulling licenses of those who don't follow it, that might make a little difference.


Do they care enough to take any action? If they will not tell the sender who and where without a court order?

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:03 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

What it will take to really get their interest in more articles in major news outlets on scams that specifically mention WU and ask the for comment.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:33 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I realize, from reading other threads as well as this one, that I'll be in the clear minority with my opinion, but personally, I reckon WU and MG just don't give a toss.

Why not have a large sign at every office telling people not to send money to non-family members? The clerks should then, of course, be qualified to asnwer the question as to why. And even if the sender doesn't inquire, the clerks should say something if the payment is being sent to a 419 hotspot e.g. "Flavour Love, Abidjan".

Now obviously, if a person has their mind set on sending the money even after they've been presented with the information, then they are simply beyond help, but the fact is that WU and MG aren't even trying! No offense, Dorothy, but events such as the one you described are few and far between. Furthermore, that clerk was doing it of his own will and not because policy dictates it.

Maybe I'm just too cynical, but the way I see it, WU and MG are enjoying their spoils too much.

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devil_woman
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 2:36 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

NickTheCop

As I said before they have a limit of £500 in 30 days on line IF this limit was imposed at the agents TOO scammers could not make repeated killings!

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NickTheCop
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 2:44 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

^^ I apologize if I sound harsh, and I may have misunderstood your comment completely, but I don't think that £500 is a sum of which it is okay to be "liberated" of. The way I see it, that is the most half-assed way of preventing 419 fraud that they could come up with. It's more of a plunder-limiter than it is a deterrent.

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"MAY YOUR BLOOD BE SHARED AMONG DOGS AND WOOIS.
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