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Western Union owes $586 million to people it helped scam. Here's how to get a refund

A $586 million settlement between the federal government and Western Union will let people who wired money to scammers reclaim some of that cash.
A $586 million settlement between the federal government and Western Union will let people who wired money to scammers reclaim some of that cash. AP

If you accidentally sent cash to scammers through Western Union wiring service, there's still time to get some of that money back.

A $586 million settlement between the federal government and the wiring service will pay back those who were cheated out of their money anytime between Jan. 1, 2004 and Jan. 19, 2017.

Western Union didn’t help protect people from fraud, the Federal Trade Commission says, and it didn't properly discipline problem agents.

“American consumers lost money while Western Union looked the other way,” FTC acting chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen said in a news release. “We’re pleased to start the process that will get that money back into consumers’ rightful hands."

Here's how to get a refund

If you lost money to a scammer because of Western Union, visit FTC.gov/WU and follow the prompted instructions. You'll be asked for information about your loss, any relevant paperwork that you can upload and your Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

Once you submit the claim, the Department of Justice will review and verify that you actually did lose money through a money transfer.

"Then, be patient," the FTC says. "It might take a year for the Department of Justice to validate all the claims and start returning money."

There is no guarantee that you will get all of your money back, though.

"If your claim is verified, the amount you get will depend on how much you lost and the number of people who submit valid claims," the FTC says.

It is free to file a claim. The FTC says do not pay anybody to help you file your claim or get your money back. If someone asks you to pay for your claim or refund, tell the FTC.

The deadline to file your claim is May 31. This is extended from the original Feb. 12 deadline. 

For more information, visit FTC.gov/WU.

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