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Press release from Business Wire

Clever Cons Scam Consumers with ‘Easy' Money Offers

<p class='bwalignc'> <i><b>Western Union Offers Tips to Help Consumers Avoid Becoming Victims of Advance Fee Scams</b></i> </p>

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Clever Cons Scam Consumers with ‘Easy' Money Offers08:30 EDT Thursday, June 28, 2012 ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (Business Wire) -- Financially strapped people looking for loans are common. Unfortunately, thieves looking for loan scam victims are common too. Posing as representatives from phony loan companies, scammers use authentic-looking documents and emails and sophisticated websites to appear legitimate and charge “fees” in advance of making loans. Consumers pay, but the loans never come through and the scammers are long gone, often changing the name of their “businesses” every few weeks to avoid law enforcement. This is one variation of a scam called the “advance fee” or “prepayment” scam. While scammers use an ever-changing array of stories to lure people in, the Federal Bureau of Investigation defines advance fee schemes as schemes where “the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value—such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift—and then receives little or nothing in return.” “Among the advance fee scam complaints we've received this year, the most common, by far, are those involving loan offers, followed by grant offers," said Shelley Bernhardt, Director of Consumer Protection at Western Union (NYSE: WU), a leader in global payment services. "Scammers used primarily the phone, followed by phony websites and emails to contact their victims. They vary their tactics and stories so it's important for consumers to always be vigilant so they can protect themselves.” Knowledge is critical to avoid becoming a victim so here are some tips to keep in mind: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. With advance fee scams, fraudsters lure people in with loan guarantees regardless of credit history, promises of big prize money and more. Be skeptical of any offer where you have to pay money up front. Walk away if you're asked for money up front, especially if it's for “insurance,” “processing,” or “paperwork.” Never send money from a deposited check until it officially clears. Just because funds are available doesn't mean a check has cleared—by law, banks must make deposited funds available within a few days but it can take weeks to uncover a fake check. If you're communicating with anyone by email, check for common red flags like poor grammar, misspellings, character/spacing mistakes, and excessive capitalization. Look for use of generic email addresses rather than specific business email addresses. Do your research. Be wary of businesses that operate using a post office box and don't have a street address. Check out the company that contacted you with local law enforcement or a consumer protection agency like the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, your State Attorney General's Office, or other trusted sources. Check the company out independently by getting its phone number from a phone book or directory assistance and calling to confirm they are who they say they are. If you're checking out a lender or loan broker, they're required to register in the state where they do business so contact your State Attorney General's office or your state's department of banking or finance regulation. Don't send money to anyone you don't know and trust, especially people you've never met in-person. If you sent a Western Union Money Transfer® and believe you may be a victim of fraud, call the Western Union Fraud Hotline number at (800) 448-1492. Information on scams is available on the Consumer Protection section of Western Union's website at: http://www.westernunion.com/stopfraud. Additional information on money wiring scams is available from the Federal Trade Commission at: www.ftc.gov > Consumer Protection > Money Matters > Scam Watch > Money Wiring Scams. About Western Union The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU) is a leader in global payment services. Together with its Vigo, Orlandi Valuta, Pago Facil and Western Union Business Solutions branded payment services, Western Union provides consumers and businesses with fast, reliable and convenient ways to send and receive money around the world, to send payments and to purchase money orders. As of April 24, 2012, the Western Union, Vigo and Orlandi Valuta branded services were offered through a combined network of approximately 500,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories. In 2011, The Western Union Company completed 226 million consumer-to-consumer transactions worldwide, moving $81 billion of principal between consumers, and 425 million business payments. For more information, visit www.westernunion.com. WU-F, WU-G Western UnionKathy Bell, 720-332-5248kathy.bell@westernunion.com