July 17th, 2009. By AbiK
Pleading Ignorance takes a look at Moneygram scams—what are they, what do you need to look out for?
First and foremost, it’s the misfortune of Moneygram—a reputable company—that its name rhymes with “scam”. Moneygram is probably best known for its money transfer and money order services. Western Union is perhaps a more well-known competitor to Moneygram, offering similar services. Regardless, any money order/transfer service can find itself in the middle of a scam operation—so the point here is not to point the finger at Moneygram. It’s to make you aware of those who try to put Moneygram’s services to illegal use—the scammers.
So Moneygram’s got the rhyming mishap, but…
What is a “Moneygram Scam”?
It’s a coined phrase that refers to a Consumer Fraud Scam. In all instances it involves a hapless victim sending money to a would-be relative, lover or bearer of good news (“have you claimed your sweepstakes prize?”).
Consumer Fraud Scams come in various shapes and sizes, but the most common are:
- Sending a money to a stranger (someone you don’t know needs money to get out of a predicament–often in another country)
- Lottery/Sweepstakes (you’ve “won” something, but you need to send some money to get it)
- Internet Purchases (someone offers to purchase something from you with a money transfer; instead they pay with stolen credit card via the money transfer service)
- Loan Scams/Advanced Fee Scams (you’re offered a loan if you send money upfront; you never see that loan once you send the money)
- Check/Money Order
- E-mail Scams (you’re emailed about someone needing help–all will be ok if only you send some money)
- Romance Scams (meet someone online, now they need money)
- Newspaper Ads (ad in paper offers loan or reward, but you need to send money first)
- Grandparent/Relative Scam (a “relative” you haven’t heard from contacts you; they’re usually in a bind in another country—or a hospital—and they need money)
Each of the above scams preys on your emotional, vulnerable side and your trust. And that’s what they’re intended to prey on—if the scammers went after your rational side, they most likely wouldn’t get too far.
Tips to Protect Yourself from Consumer Fraud
- Never, ever give money or personal information to anyone a) you don’t know; or b) who asks you for the information first—ie, be skeptical of any institution or individual who contacts you unsolicited and asks you for personal information, your social security number, or bank account information.
- A legitimate sweepstakes will indicate “no purchase necessary” and will not ask you to pay for “processing” or “shipping fees”.
- Don’t assume a company is legitimate because they have a website; look for a physical address and contact information—usually found in the “About Us” section or a “Contact us” link. Research the company online and with the Better Business Bureau. Find out about their return policy and any warranty.