Western Union Scam Explained

First off, let me say that I have nothing against Western Union – they offer a great service for sending money to friends and relatives abroad and are not themselves involved in any scams or fraud.

As they say on their website – their service is only to be used for sending money to people you already know.

This article is to generate awareness of the problems faced by those who don’t heed that good advice.

Western Union is a payment processor that is mentioned all too often when scams are being discussed.

Typically, a buyer will either purchase goods and not receive them, or will receive something that is substantially different and of far less value than what they have paid for.

In these cases there is absolutely NO comeback for the buyer.

The most common items to feature in such scams are high value items, such as art or electronics, i.e. laptops.

More often than not, the Western Union scams unfold through online auction sites such as eBay, or via unsolicited emails.

With the emailed version it just pays to ask yourself why you are even contemplating sending money to a complete stranger.

Why exactly are they selling that laptop at a quarter of the retail price anyway??

eBay Scam

On eBay the scam usually occurs something like this –

  • You bid and win, or buy it now, from a crooked seller.
  • You miss out in auction and get a spoof second chance offer
  • You fail to win and get a random email from another seller offering you a bargain

To reel you in, the seller will give you a tracking number for your package to “prove” that the item has been sent.

This may make you feel safe in the knowledge that what you have purchased has/will be shipped.

However, the number may be fake, or lead to a fake site or thirdly, an item may have been shipped but is not what you expect – empty parcels are not uncommon!

As soon as you pay the scammer will ask for the MTCN number – this allows them immediate access to the funds.

That will be the last you ever hear of them…

Remember – Western Union themselves advise against sending money to people you don’t know.

You have NO protection if you get scammed so think twice before using Western Union for online purchases.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


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