5 On Your Side

Those scammed into sending money through Western Union could see some returned

Posted December 4, 2017 6:48 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 9:55 a.m. EDT

— Many people have been approached by scammers who want them to send money, whether it be to claim a fake lottery prize or settle a nonexistent debt, but those who did send money through Western Union may now be able to get some of their money back.

Bertha Wheeless, an Avon lady in Rocky Mount for 40 years, was roped into a grandparent scam. The scammer posed as Wheeless granddaughter, claimed to be in trouble and said she needed $5,500 for bail.

“The funny thing is, they told her exactly where to go to wire the money. That should have been a tell-tale sign,” Wheeless’ son, Mark Wheeless said.

Bertha Wheeless sent the money through Western Union. She later called police, but her money was gone.

In a $586 million settlement, the Federal Trade Commission contends Western Union knew scammers used their service to trick people but, instead of reporting it, the company “looked the other way.”

Anybody who wired money between 2004 and 2017 is eligible to get part of the payout.

“When I saw this story I was like, ‘Wow, the federal government really cracked down on them,’” Mark Wheeless said.

Mark Wheeless’ mother has since passed away, so he filed a claim on her behalf, supplying the police report from the original incident.

The Department of Justice will verify each claim and the amount each victim receives will depend on how much they lost and how many claims are file.

The claims may take up to one year to process, which is just fine for Mark Wheeless, who thought his mother’s $5,500 was gone for good.

“Hopefully, we’ll get the money back,” he said.

All claims must be submitted by Feb. 12, 2018.