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 Reforms to Western Union and Money Gram

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Kakigwe
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:21 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I'm new to 419 scams. I got interested because I am on the board of directors of a non-profit and there is at least one 419 scammer out there using the name of our non-profit to try to trick people into sending them money via Western Union.

I just got off the phone with Western Union and I'm a bit ticked off at them. It seems to me that if Western Union wanted to, they could implement a number of simple common sense policies that would put an end to a large number of these scams. Instead they seem to take a "It's not our fault don't look at us" approach. They are putting all of the responsibility on the victims while making it really easy for 419 scammers to victimize people. They've been completely uncooperative with me.

Western Union is a dream come true for 419 scammers. If I were running a scam I would invent something exactly like Western Union to help me pull the scam off.

My question to all of you is whether we shouldn't redirect some of our efforts towards Western Union to demand better policies to prevent these scams in the first place.
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Mortal
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:32 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

While people had undoubtedly tried that before (or at least discussed it) - it is not question of means how to send the money. There are countless ways - envelopes, checks, online services (BitCoin, PayPal, etc.), bank accounts - lad use those too and Internet anonymity is a great advantage for them in that area. At worst they can always make victims buy them stuff online (I love you darling, please send me new laptop ok?)

And of course, WU and MG are aware of the situation, as far as I remember they even came up with policy that before recieving payments in Nigeria, Ghana and maybe other countries too, you have to show them your ID, but keep in mind that it's Africa. And scammers undoubtedly have their "friends" in WU offices as well. Even if WU came up with more strict policies that would protect people better - somebody would look out there and think to himself "Why isn't there some fast and easy way to send money?" and he would create a whole new "WU-like" service.

Educating potential victims is the way to go. Posters, flyers, meetings.. But then again - WU is not obligated to do this. They are just a means of sending money - and just like a car can be abused to run people over, this service can be abused to lure money out of people. But really, if there were no WU, there are dozens of other ways how to get money from victim

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:20 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Vigo is one new knock off, there is another but I cannot find the name at this moment. I think Ria or something like that They are going to find ways to use any system possible. They have no trouble using bank accounts if pushed. We know those are fairly safe and legal to use too.

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BearSeason
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:54 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

This question seems to be popping up a lot. No, Western Union is not at fault. They are a legitimate service that is abused by scammers and they are hardly the only one. They go above and beyond their duty to protect people from these scams. And yes, the bulk of the responsibility is on the victims. Victims are manipulated into sending money and deserve sympathy but, at the end of the day, they are autonomous human beings with free will.

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Kakigwe
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:27 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I don't buy this at all. WU makes it easy to run a scam. Good policies would make it just as convenient to send money, without facilitating these crimes.

The car analogy is a telling one I think. For years car companies fought tooth and nail to keep seat belts out of cars and tried to blame drivers and drivers alone for fatalities in cars.

If educating potential victims is weak sause which is not doing the job. Structural changes to WU really would make running these kinds of scams more difficult. Yes there will always be workarounds, the point is to make these workarounds more difficult and more expensive and more time consuming for the scammers. Potential marks have heard of WU and trust them. They shouldn't. I'd love to see scammers try to convince gullible people to use BitCoin. I bet they'd make 1% what they're making now if they had to use BitCoin, which requires at least a minimal amount of tech knowledge and is something that most people still have never heard of and wouldn't trust.

And the potential marks are not the only ones affected by these scams. I've spent the past week trying to manage this in the most responsible way in order to protect my non-profit. WU has been completely unhelpful. WU has done everything I would want them to do if I were a scammer.

If you are serious about protecting people and cutting of the money to these scammers, it's time to spend less time playing with the scammers for sport and more time focusing on what would really put them out of business.
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Ima Baeder
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:51 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

As Bearseason mentioned, this topic pops up periodically. Since you didn't have the benefit of previous discussions, here is a link to one somewhat recent thread: http://forum.419eater.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=226452

To recap some of it: Western Union is not complicit in the scams. They are a legitimate service which is abused by scammers. They actually do much more than most of the services abused by scammers to try to prevent people falling victim.
Scammers exploit every single service they can find. It just happens that Western Union is very visible, and a favorite of scammers because of the nature of their service.
Other services just as often abused, but curiously, less often blamed, are Yahoo email, Banks (fraudulent checks and transfers), and VOIP or redirect phone numbers.

Quote:
If you are serious about protecting people and cutting of the money to these scammers, it's time to spend less time playing with the scammers for sport and more time focusing on what would really put them out of business.


Is this directed at us? If so, you're out of line. Quite frankly, you don't know how much of our own free time we spend baiting for bank accounts, trying to uncover victim info, reporting fake sites, offering victim support at ScamWarners, offering local workshops to seniors, etc.
The "playing" that baiters do is actually often more effective than what is done by the government agencies dedicated to fighting this type of fraud. Wink

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:09 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Wow. Let me just say DITTO to everything that Ima said.

I use WU to send money to my son, who is in the military and sometimes I have no other way to get it to him quickly.

WU and MG provide an important service to people who need it. Is it exploitable? Yes. But so is everything.

And to criticize US for all the work WE do? I agree with Ima. Out of line. You don't know a fraction of it.

Get involved here and learn a bit more before you decide we're wasting our time.

The seat belt analogy is completely nonsensical. Sometimes car accidents happen that are not your fault...someone rear-ends you, or runs a red light and t-bones you. Seat belts protect the innocent who have done nothing but drive.

People who send money to scammers did so because they got fooled. They made the choice to send their money to a stranger.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:25 am Reply with quoteBack to top

^ true. Not being belaboured by bureaucracy, we can operate quickly and by some fairly crafty means. See all the little signature icons? Every pink pig is a compromised bank account reported to the authorities. Every black pig is a stolen credit card shot down. Every flag is a fake bank, courier or other fraud website that has been killed. We harm their operations in many different ways - by destroying assets, cutting communications, sabotaging allegiances, harming reputations, diverting resources to waste, and generally making life as a scammer miserable and unrewarding. We are not just playing games with them, trust me.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 3:18 am Reply with quoteBack to top

And every pith helmet means that a scammer was tricked into going somewhere to pick up something or meet someone that doesn't exist, taking him for days away from his usual occupation of swindling, and sometimes leaving him at the mercy of random nighttime passersby on the street.

Some of us make up fake formats and get lads to send them out to baiters who pretend to be victims. If they send these formats to real potential victims, they hopefully find the script ridiculous. There's one of these baits going on right now where a lad is pretending to raise money to reinstate the overthrown president of a country that doesn't exist.

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BearSeason
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 3:42 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Quote:
Structural changes to WU really would make running these kinds of scams more difficult.


Any changes of that nature would have the unintended affect of hurting the people who are using the service legitimately.

I'm sincerely sorry that your charity is being harmed by these scams. You have every right to be angry but you seem to be misdirecting your anger, both toward Western Union and toward us.

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Mortal
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:33 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Like it was said here - keep in mind that everything WU does to make people aware of the scams is their voluntary decision. And they pay THEIR OWN money to do so. Nobody forces them.

Something similar are dating sites. You can meet scammers there, but it is not the service's fault.
Just like you can meet pickpocket anywhere and it's not affected by the place where you are. If you get pickpocketed in a bank, you're not gonna blame the bank but rather the filthy pickpocket, right?

Any service can be abused. Be it face to face approach, postal service (which we had topics about people recieving scam letters in their mailbox), banks, WU etc.

They use MG and WU in particular because it's easy for them. But if you take it from them they would quickly adapt and find themselves new solution, new way of recieving money.

And like Ima said - you have little to no idea of just how much people dedicate themselves to fight the scams - be it posting their mails to ScamWarners, killing their fake sites and bank accounts, contacting the money mules (if one shows up) or shutting their stolen credit cards down. All that is not for fun - it's all a serious help. Baiting for trophies and safaris is that extra thing to keep us entertained. But it is not the soul of scambaiting. Which is helping the victims - and if we damage the scammers like I had mentioned - it undoubtedly helps the victims too.
Educating people is just as important - I for example educate people in my RL surroundings and a couple of times I had the chance to spot a scammer and tell the potential victim before the scam even happened. And that is a great feeling, when you can say "I just hurt the scammer and prevented a good person from getting scammed." Wink

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:43 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Western union and MG are not to blame. Nor is any other company that facilitates communication.
I recently signed up with a telephone preference service in the UK so I hopefully wouldn't get marketing calls. Unfortunately I still get several calls a week from a bogus Microsoft support call center in Bangladesh to tell me that my PC is spreading viruses.
Scammers are criminals and they don't follow the same rules as normal people do. They will use any method to facilitate their scams.
Millions of people a day use WU and MG legitimately and appreciate it when their friends and family are able to receive money without hassle.
What you are suggesting is akin to limiting everyones freedom due to few criminals. It's a bit like the restrictions we have to go through today due to terrorism.
How would you like it if you had to confirm your ID every time you wanted to make a phone call or send an email. It would be a huge pain in the ass as well as being intrusive.
The main way forward is to educate people as to what scams are. These companies however do make large profits and they should be involved in some way.
To be honest everybody is responsible from governments downwards.

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Mortal
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 12:00 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Wow, wowwow makes a good point here - it's funny how you blame WU or MG and not the email providers .. and yet it's service that's just as abused

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 2:37 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

The modern Nigerian 419 advance fee scam is little more than a reinvention of the original Spanish Prisoner scam, which was prevalent around the time a fixed charge postal service was introduced in the mid 19th century. You could address a one penny letter to anyone, anywhere, who could then disappear the moment they received the mail.

I'm sure anyone taken in by this scam around that time would have been calling for the post to be banned.

If westy/moneygrab, clamp down on money transfers to west African countries, scammers would simply switch to some other untraceable means of sending cash, ie: back to snail mail, money mules.

Westy, keeps families financially in touch and can be a lifeline for families relying on their loved ones sending money home who work abroad. It helps a lot more people out of a hole than it drops in one.

Personally, I blame Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the world-wide-web.

What's his game? Wink

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 3:56 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

As already mentioned for people who live far away from families they are trying to support WU and MG offer an invaluable service. I live in a city with a large 1st, 2nd & 3rd generation immigrant population and as such in the areas of the city they populate you can hardly walk past a corner shop (the English version of a Convenience Store) without seeing a WU or MG sign, I've seen some shops that offer both.

They use these services because they need to get money to their families quickly to an area of the world where they may have family members who don't have a passport, a driving licence or even a bank account. Which is why WU & MG use test question and answer to eliminate this need. If you add extra security features it will inconvenience hundreds of thousands if not millions of customers.

Having said that I'm sure there are isolated problems as WU & MG operate as a franchise and anyone with a shop can apply to sell their services. I have seen some clerks taking the issues facing WU very seriously asking the customer politely the nature of their transaction and who they are sending money to where as I'm sure other cashiers wont give a fig who is sending what where.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:37 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Bitcoin sounds facinating, it doesn't exist, has therefore no value, but has recently gone up in value, is traded amongst 'owners' and was invented by a hacker.

Sounds like a scam, looks like a scam, how the Dickens does it work?

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:28 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

^ IG, what about our "real" money?
Most of it does not really exist, only bits and bytes in computers. Can be created as much as wanted by "legal" institutions. No rules for the authorities, or if, can be changed whenever wanted.
Sounds like a scam, doesn't it?

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:50 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Quote:
Personally, I blame Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the world-wide-web.


Well we would not all be here otherwise.... Laughing

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:28 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I would like to chime in as well. What about banks and other financial institutions? I KNOW I have sent scammers money but could do nothing about it. I am/was legally bound to send it. We tried everything to stop it. But the sender wouldnt listen.
The small print on a wire form specifically states that if the wire is sent like they are instructed to, the fiis are not responsible for any money lost.
It has happened both domestically and foreign. The receiving bank is under no obligation to send it back.
Those rules wont change either.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:59 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Alas, I too feel the need to weigh in:

I work in information security and one of the things you must always remember is that when a criminal wants something, he will figure out a way to get it.

Hackers (Both black and white hats (white hat = good guys, blackhat = bad guys)) are adept at taking an existing system and getting it to work in their favor.

I have always said, if a person can create a system, another person can figure out how to break it, circumvent it, and/or even use it to their own advantage.

You should read up on Kevin Mitnick, he is one of the most infamous hackers, not because of his programming abilities, but because of his skill at social engineering. He wrote several books detailing how he compromised many systems including an AT&T law enforcement helpdesk. One of my favorite stories about him is how when he was in prison, he managed to REDIAL a phone right in front of the guard, without the guard knowing.

After all, we are only human, and if someone can conceivably build a system, someone else can think up ways to circumvent it. Thus is the nature of humans.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:21 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

^Kevin Mitnick is quite the character isn't he?

A number of years ago we did a test on our own vulnerability at work using nothing more than his version of social engineering. After three quick internal phone calls I actually gained control of one of the largest PBXs in North America. No I didn't cheat either (I was the poor Sap Administering it at the time).

The Powers that Be actually took notice for a change.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:33 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Imprive wrote:
You should read up on Kevin Mitnick, he is one of the most infamous hackers, not because of his programming abilities, but because of his skill at social engineering.......

After all, we are only human, and if someone can conceivably build a system, someone else can think up ways to circumvent it. Thus is the nature of humans.


He's my hero and PEBKAC! Laughing

Regarding the hackers and the colour spectrum TBH the only ones you have to worry about abusing the financial systems are the black hats and yes.... they will figure out a way around it all. For example I know that a lot of lads have turned to using fake and forged ID's to pick up their western union deliveries. If that does not work they could turn to money gram or even other things I am just not going to discuss in public.

Simply put there are quite a few ways to scam and move that money anonymously. That is why laundering will always be associated with fraud. WU should tighten up but that really will not stop the rising tide as there are many other ways to move the money or get around any reg's and safety protocols WU has put into place.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 6:30 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Inspector Gadget wrote:
Bitcoin sounds facinating, it doesn't exist, has therefore no value, but has recently gone up in value, is traded amongst 'owners' and was invented by a hacker.

Sounds like a scam, looks like a scam, how the Dickens does it work?


BitCoin is basicly a commodity; and trades much the same as any be it gold, silver, wheat, etc. Price is based on demand - at what price is their enough quantity to meet demand. It is no more a currency than any other commodity - if someone is willing to accept it in trade then it has value. As with any commodity, if demand drops off because of lack of trust in its value or any other reason; or if production outstrips demand the value will fall. Think tulips, not Euros for the model.

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