Effort has returned $1.7 million to scam victims

An unusual initiative by the attorney general’s office to find victims who wired money to scammers returned more than $1.7 million to almost 350 Kansans in about two months, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said this week.

A 2017 legal settlement between federal and state authorities, including the Kansas attorney general, and Western Union required the company to pay refunds to people who used Western Union wire transfers to send money to scammers. But getting the word out to victims proved difficult, because many victims had not filed complaints and therefore were unknown.

So in March 2018, the attorney general obtained from Western Union a list of Kansans who had wired large amounts of money in recent years and mailed a personal notice to more than 25,000 people in the state.

“We knew we would be contacting many people who wired money for legitimate purposes,” Schmidt said. “But we had to cast the net wide to get notice into the hands of those scam victims who could benefit.”

In response to the notice, 344 scam victims in Kansas contacted the attorney general’s office and received help filing refund claims totaling $1,758,988. Many more filed claims without the attorney general’s direct assistance, and the total relief provided by the settlement to Kansans will be known at a later date. The deadline for filing claims was May 31.

Of those victims the attorney general helped with filing, 23 had lost $20,000 or more. The largest refund amount the attorney general filed for one person was $65,821.

“Most of the time, once money is wired to a scammer, that money is lost,” Schmidt said. “This rare opportunity to return so much of that money to scam victims in Kansas was heartwarming. But it also is a sobering reminder just how widespread and common these scams are, so we will continue our efforts to help Kansans avoid scams and hold onto their hard-earned money.”

More information about the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division is available at www.InYourCornerKansas.org.

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