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 German WU in blissful ignorance

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Jeannette
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 6:18 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I'm just back from a German WU office:

They did not have any posters or pamphlets with scam warnings. I asked the clerk if she would give any warning if I wanted to make a substantial transfer to Nigeria: "No - why?" I explained about internet scams. "Never heard of!" However, they warn persons about to transfer money to Russia and Ukrainia.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 10:38 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Shocked They've never heard of 419?!?!?! ~faints~

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 11:39 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

What part of Germany, is it one of the major cities?

M-m-max

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Jeannette
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:18 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Central railway station in one of the biggest cities.

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Dott. Giascopato
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 6:25 am Reply with quoteBack to top

http://www.postbank.de/ql_1101978360784/1101978165955.html

Indeed. Nothing about 419 Confused

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Gnasher
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:39 am Reply with quoteBack to top

My theory (discussed elsewhere) is that WU knows damn well about 419s but turn a blind eye because business is business. If they plead ignorance and don't post warnings in their offices their ripped off customers would find it much more difficult to go after them for being some kind of accessory to fraud, etc. Can you imagine what would happen if ALL the victims organised a class action against WU?

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 8:10 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Perhaps KD might make mention.

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kleindoofy
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 8:16 am Reply with quoteBack to top

We shouldn't forget that the overwhelming majority of money transfers to Nigeria and other West African countries is perfectly legitimate.

People who work outside of their own country usually send a large part of their earnings home to their families. In Germany alone, tens of thousands of transactions are done with Nigeria every day, only a handful of which are part of a 419 scam.

Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not making excuses for WU or defending them, but we do tend to have a skewed view here.

Gnasher wrote:
... If they ... don't post warnings ... being some kind of accessory to fraud ...


Some people also dry their wet cat in the microwave and then, when pussy explodes, they blame the manufacturer for not having put a warning on the box. I've always found that a bit strange.

Yes, I agree, WU should post warnings. But they're hardly responsible for 419 or an accessory.

Gnasher wrote:
... Can you imagine what would happen if ALL the victims organised a class action against WU?


Yup. Absolutely nothing. Where would it end? Is Yahoo also an accessory for letting the lads have email addies? Etc, etc, ...

I'm not trying to criticize any of the above posts, but in the real world jurisprudence isn't all that simple.
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Minnow
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 8:54 am Reply with quoteBack to top

kleindoofy wrote:
Some people also dry their wet cat in the microwave and then, when pussy explodes, they blame the manufacturer for not having put a warning on the box.



Eeewwww! Shocked

Could you be a little more graphic, KD? Cool

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:42 am Reply with quoteBack to top

kleindoofy wrote:
Yes, I agree, WU should post warnings. But they're hardly responsible for 419 or an accessory.


I take your point KD, but if WU has a policy to quietly ignore the elephant in the corner of the room, ie, 419 fraud then in theory a sufficiently pissed off victim could go after them. Sure, the volume of 419 funds being sent around the world is tiny compared to legitimate transactions, but try telling that to a victim who's lost the farm. Actually proving that WU knows what goes on is a different matter, but I am still absolutely convinced that they do and it seems to me that they don't make sufficient efforts to warn their customers.

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harrya
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:51 am Reply with quoteBack to top

If you own a china store and you spot an elephant in the corner ?
Do you
a) double check your insurance policy
b) act like a mad man and try and shoo it away
c) act normal and hope it dissapears under the carpet
d) gaze at your navel

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friday3
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:53 am Reply with quoteBack to top

So who exactly do you sue? The mom and pop grocery store that happens to do WU transfers as one of the 10000 products they offer?

People don't walk into WU headquarters and try and send money, it is done through agents that almost always do WU as a small portion of another business. Often these people (as we find in every other group of people in the world) have very little to no knowledge of internet scams.

Even if WU was to send these people phonebook size dossiers of scamming they would have little motivation to read it as transfers generate very little of their income. The same way you don't read that 700 page guide that comes with your TV, even though it may void your warrenty. Why? Because it just isn't that importiant to you.

Meanwhile, a class action suit against several mom and pop operations would have such delightful effects reducing the flow of money to the peoples families that actually need it, as operations close down one after the other because the 100 bucks they make of WU isn't worth the risk of a frivolous lawsuit.

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harrya
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 11:07 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Friday3, it's an interesting point. Food for thought I am in a small business and we sell recharge for mobiles (so with only several million of us doing around the world I'm sure I don't need a bait safe too much info warning) Smile There is very grave problems in not being aware of fraud. A customer simply looking at a recharge receipt is considered a nonrefundable item as the customer may have photographic memory or more likley used a camera phone to capture the validation code.
The retailer is the front line on scams and beleive me I've seen them all try it on. My worst ex-customers are all over 60 so it's not just the young and foolish, look out for the old and well equipt.

I could do pages on this topic Smile

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PsycheDelia_Smith
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 11:28 am Reply with quoteBack to top

WU agents are not complicit in 419 scams just because they do as the victim asks, and deliver the money. That's like blaming the postal service for delivering ebay items to people who pay with dud cheques. They could be more proactive, sure, but as KD points out, you could say the same about ISPs. It's not their job to hold hands.

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usm
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 1:35 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I recently worked on a Western Union Project for my company, WU use business rules for all of the countries they send money to.
For example any value over 450.00 to West African countries, ID is required, specific to Nigeria you are not allowed to just use the Test Question as a method of picking up the funds they must also have ID.

Also part of the WU business model, regardless of destination country, any value over 500 the customer is supposed to sign a disclaimer saying that they are aware of possible fraud, this disclaimer includes details of advance fee fraud.
Specific to my company we are allowed to add business rules of our own.
There are certain countries where it is illegal to ask for ID when collecting funds (I can't remember the countries though)
The fact that such practices are not followed in Germany is worthy of a follow up.
By the way in case anyone is interested the WU head office is in Belgium

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mrsbean
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 3:37 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

usm, I don't think Jeannette actually sent any money. Or at least not the amount of money that would trigger those business practices you mentioned. I presume those conditions trigger prompts for the clerk to have the sender sign those disclaimers. Jeannette just said she didn't see any posted warnings or pamphlets, and the clerk was apparently unfamiliar with internet scams, which isn't quite the same thing as policy not being followed. I don't think I've read any policies about posted scam warnings, yet.

Now, maybe my opinion is colored quite a bit by the fact that I also, in addition to baiting, volunteer on the other side of things. I talk to a lot of victims and would-be victims on a non-baiting victim-assistance site. Sometimes on public forums and sometimes in private correspondence. My experiences there convince me that making an effort to warn every possible sender off of every possible fraud would be... well... just about impossible. And of dubious value, no matter how many blinking posters, pamphlets, and disclaimers you wave at someone who is determined to send money.

I sometimes have a hard enough time warning people off of scams when they come to you, asking if this is a scam. They seem half convinced already, yet I've sometimes had a dozen email exchanges with a person who came to an anti-fraud site, which is just slopping over with posted warnings and posted examples of every type of scam conceivable, asking if something is a fraud. The seed of doubt is already there, and it... still... takes... hard... work... to... convince... them. I've sent some people reams of links and proof, hundreds of other scam letters almost exactly like thiers, and assurances that I know what I'm talking about, and they still won't believe me for a worryingly long time, if at all. I have patiently persuaded the same person through ten nearly identical formats in a row, having to convince a them that, no, I still have not changed my mind, these job offers where you cash payments on behalf of a company and wire them money are still ALL scams. There aren't any real ones. And I fancy I know a little bit about how most scams work.

I have bloody well predicted with great accuracy what the next thing the scammer was going to ask for would be, and still gotten a "Gee, you were right, he just asked for X! Should I send it?" in response. I have had to tell people who have been threatened with criminal charges by their banks to NOT CASH THE NEXT CHECK THE SCAMMER SENDS.

Hell, being skeptical and asking for help doesn't even mean they wait for the answer. One of my most frustrating ones? A guy who had one of those "Eek, I'm dying here, help!" scam emails. He inquires on the forum as to whether it is real, should he send money. I work up a reply, both on the forum and to his personal email in far less than fifteen minutes. He had already sent the damned money by the time he read it. Didn't even wait for a reply. He posted the fecking question, and must have gotten straight up off his arse, and gone straight to the WU counter.

And I don't even normally deal with people who are deeply entrenched in love scams. I think my head would explode. People in those scams are even less likely to simply back off because you've presented them with a taste of logic and reality, and there are irrational emotions involved.

My point being that, quite aside from the rather distasteful (to me) idea that WU, Moneygram and every other money transfer service known to man being expected to be everyone's personal nanny, even an already "skeptical" victim can be hard to convince. You can drown them in disclaimers, pamphlets, posters and verbal warnings, but don't expect it to be greatly effective.

With the possible exception of giant "No, you Americans cannot possibly legally win a foreign lottery, especially if you did not buy a ticket. You cannot play foreign lotteries by mail or phone without breaking federal law." posters, because many Americans seem to be quite ignorant of that law.

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usm
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 3:51 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

mrsbean wrote:
See above.......

I'm not questioning what people do or don't do, I know as well as anyone that people don't read anything they are given, I am however pointing out that WU are aware that their service is sometimes used for advance fee fraud. They do have a process where people are warned, this is purely to remove all blame from them and protect their business interests.
No where in any WU office I have been into (in my country) are their posters or warnings on the wall, after all they don't want to scare people away.
There is now however on our national TV advertisements warning people about advance fee fraud.
But the fact that the staff member isn't aware of advance free fraud isn't unusual, each WU office operates under license, it is the owner of said license to inform & educate their staff.

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thud419
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:51 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

friday3 wrote:
The same way you don't read that 700 page guide that comes with your TV
A retired bank manager of my acquaintance told me that they had two large books about fraud for the staff to reference - the book about fraud and the book about Nigerian fraud.

As people have said, posters and leaflets will not stop many people from sending money, but how many successes would make the effort worthwhile?

It seems to me that WU have a duty to provide some instruction and materials to their agents. Whether they get read and acted on is a matter for the agents. I don't see it as worthwhile to sue the agent, since they are probably only responsible for a tiny amount per annum, and should not be expected to be legally responsible for detecting the fraudulent transactions among the many good ones. But WU itself is responsible for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars lost through fraud per annum, they know that this goes on, and so they have a duty to warn about it.

Certainly most people know that you don't put cats in microwave ovens, but if there was a steady stream of complaints coming in that proved that up to a million people a year were doing so, would not the manufacturer be expected to issue a warning and take steps to ensure that all their customers received it?

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:36 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

http://allafrica.com/stories/200612111342.html
has some relevance to this discussion

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 6:03 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

thud419 wrote:
WU itself is responsible for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars lost through fraud per annum, they know that this goes on, and so they have a duty to warn about it.


But the point is that WU aren't responsible for it. The people responsible for the loss are the scammer and the sender. WU are merely doing what the sender pays them to do, just like any providers of services that gets things from A to B. When the vic draws money from his bank account to send to a lad, you could equally argue that the bank have a responsibility to ask what the purpose of the withdrawal is. The onus is on the sender to know what the hell he's doing, and strictly speaking, the ISPs could do a lot more to warn about the type of emails internet newbies are likely to get. That'd be a hell of a lot less intrusive than a WU clerk asking what the money's being sent for.

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thud419
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 9:57 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

419 scams don't just come by email. ISTR there's a nasty one in Canada at the moment where the victim receives a fake cheque with the initial letter through the post, congratulating them on winning the lottery - here's your winnings, please send us the tax.

Quote:
you could equally argue that the bank have a responsibility to ask what the purpose of the withdrawal is... [ISPs]... less intrusive than a WU clerk asking what the money's being sent for.


My first paragraph pointed out that banks do take steps to inform their staff about fraud. It doesn't need to be anything like as intrusive as asking the purpose of all transactions. If an eighty year old woman comes in for the first time, doesn't know what to do, but needs to send money to Nigeria, that's the time to start asking questions.

WU are not responsible for ensuring those questions are asked. But they are responsible for ensuring that their agents know about fraud, and maybe for ensuring that posters and pamphlets are available at outlets.

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Gnasher
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:07 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

It's not about being a 'nanny' to customers, nor is it some kind of infringement of someone's civil liberties to send whatever to whoever they damn well please. Perish the thought. It's about providing customers with important and possibly relevant information. If WU as an organisation knows about 419 scams and how their service is often instrumental in such scams then they at least have a duty of care to their customers to (a) put up clear warnings (which customers either will, but most probably won't heed) and (b) give their agents/staff at least some instruction on at least the existance of such scams and how they are perpetrated.
I find it disturbing that a German WU agent would claim never to have heard of 419s which either means the agent isn't reading important information provided by WU, or the information isn't provided in the first place.

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Jayhawk
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:10 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I'm not a lawyer, but the feeling of whether or not WU is responsible is really a moot point. The question lies more along the line of if there is sufficient evidence to bring about a lawsuit.

If WU knows that their service is used for illegal purposes, they have an obligation to take reasonable steps to help protect those that send the money. In my opinion, and, again, I'm not a lawyer, it sure seems to me like if someone were to lose money to a scammer and bring a suit against WU there would probably be enough evidence for the judge to allow the lawsuit to proceed.

Who would be sued? Most probably WU, along with the institution that sent the money. This alone could be enough to scare some mom and pops off from using Western Union, as the threat of huge legal fees might cause them to stop using Western Union. It doesn't matter if the suit is successful or not. The cost of defending such a lawsuit could be staggering.

My opinion is that if WU knows that their service is used for scamming, and obviously they do, they have an obligation to take reasonable efforts to protect their customers. I've seen the WU's in my area, along with the banks in my area, taking those steps. I'm surprised that the WU you visited did not.

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mrsbean
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:43 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

usm wrote:
I am however pointing out that WU are aware that their service is sometimes used for advance fee fraud.


I'm sure they're aware that their service is occasionally misused. Any payment service is. Paypal, Moneybookers, Moneygram, postal orders... For that matter, bank transfers are often used by export scammers claiming to be in China. If we apply these rules to WU and similar services, then I suppose you would also have to make banks ask if you're sending money to China for goods you're importing, and warn people about all the scammers on Alibaba and similar trading sites, and caution them about China's reputation for counterfeit goods, to be fair.

I'm not sure at all that WU is aware of how often they are used by scammers. Most studies show that only an incredibly small percentage of fraud gets reported to anyone at all. How many victims are reporting their losses to WU? Not many, I would wager.

I make it a point to tell people to do so, when applicable. Many of them still decline to report it, because I'm honest about the fact that WU will not refund their money just because they were scammed. When I point out that it does help to report it (I've heard a few second-hand reports that WU has stopped some transfers initiated online to names/addresses that have shown a pattern of fraud complaints. ), many of them still don't give a damn. They lost their money, they're not getting it back, they don't care about the next person.

That's not the attitude all of them display, sure, but I doubt WU is getting even halfway accurate reporting of just how often their service is used by scammers. They can't read minds about how many people are being scammed. Even then, all the scammer has to do to get around it is change his scamming persona and address. One new fake ID, and he's right back in business, assuming the clerks even check.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 11:24 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Great discussion. The bottom line is that WU provide a service that people use. WU can't be held responsible for what an individual does with his/her money. They do provide information on scams and they do warn and watch for some patterns. However the majority of transactions are legit. Parents sending their children funds while they study abroad..etc..

I wouldn't like to guess what percentage of transactions are scams or legit, but if people here feel strong enough about this, then I see nothing wrong with members here going to a WU branch and posing these questions, and asking for a look at all their brochure information related to scams.

I think it's worth the exercise of a few of us visiting our local branch to find out how each country deals with fraud, and how they warn potential victims. I'll go and visit my the branch in my city and gather some information.

If we think they are not doing enough, and our research is thorough, then is nothing wrong with taking this information to the media. However improbable, it's equally possible for change to be made. Even if it's having WU stick big posters in their stores and educating more staff to the pattern of these crimes.

You never know.

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