If you were scammed while using Western Union, you now have a deadline to file a claim

Have you been scammed by someone who claimed you owed the government money? Or claimed to be a friend in dire need of cash? Or claimed you’d won a lottery or prize?

If you wired money to a scammer via Western Union in the past 13 years, you may qualify for compensation.

Claims for compensation are being accepted through Feb. 12, 2018, Attorney General Jim Hood said in a news release Wednesday. The time frame for the fraud is from Jan. 1, 2004, through Jan. 19, 2017.

Other types of scams, such as online dating schemes, also may qualify, provided you were urged to wire money through Western Union’s money transfer service, Hood said.

Compensation money comes from a $586 million fund from a settlement between Western Union and 50 state attorney generals and administered by the Justice Department’s Victim Asset Recovery Program.

The lawsuit, settled in January, claimed Western Union agents knew its service was being used for illegal activity and had an obligation to report it to authorities but did not.

“American consumers lost money while Western Union looked the other way,” Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen said in a news release.

Western Union agreed to set up an anti-fraud program and to pay each state a certain amount of money. The amount awarded to Mississippi was $53,180.

All claims filed with Hood’s office were sent to Western Union after the settlement was reached, Hood said. Those people and any who reported the fraud directly to Western Union or any other government agency will be mailed a claim form from Gilardi & Co., settlement administrator, in the next two weeks.

If you have not filed a complaint but want to, visit or call 1-844-319-2124.

There is no cost to file a claim.

“For years, Western Union allowed scammers to use its money transfer system to get payments from victims, even though they received hundreds of thousands of complaints about money transfers that were inducted by fraud and deceit,” Hood said.

“Because they chose to ignore the problem instead of implementing policies and procedures to better protect consumers, they are now having to reimburse consumers for these losses.”

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews