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Western Union Scams

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This is George Vanous, and I just got scammed out of $1,755.04.

Please read this in case you ever have a similar experience.

The short version

Always verify the identity of anyone you are about to send money to, especially if it is through Western Union!

The full version

At 6:00am on Jan 19 2010, I was contacted by a close friend on Facebook chat. She said she was stranded in London and was just mugged. All her credit cards and money were taken, her flight was leaving very soon, and she needed 950 pounds to settle the hotel bill.

This was all very convincing. My friend has been in London before and this was her Facebook account. It did not even cross my mind that this may not be her. So, with a strong sense of urgency, I immediately went to help!

After I paid, I got another Facebook message saying she missed her flight and needs 1500 pounds more. At that point, I asked her to tell me something only she and I would knew. Her only response was "I hit my head and can't think".

This is all my stupidity for not confirming her identity before sending money.

Don't make the same mistake!

Recourse

After I realized I was scammed, I immediately called Western Union and told them what happened. They said the money was picked up 10 minutes after I sent it, with no way to know at which of the hundreds of Western Union locations in London.

There was no recourse.

These scam artists are experts at creating a strong sense of urgency, manufacturing emergencies, and I was not thinking. This also happened at exactly the wrong time (money being very tight) so I am doubly angry with myself.

Basically, I bought a $1,755.04 lesson this morning: Always verify the identity of anyone you are about to send money to, especially if it is through Western Union.

The best I can do is make everyone aware of this to help reduce the chance of it happening to you (why this article exists!)

Note: Western Union offers an extremely valuable service, to send and receive cash immediately anywhere in the world, and it is not their fault that others abuse it.

Who else got scammed

This is a very common scam in London, to the tune of 6 reported incidents a week to just one police department!

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