Western Union’s Fraud Control 419 Scam Fail

A friend of mine recently had her Facebook account hacked. The hacker then started contacting her friends through Facebook Chat with a request to have money sent to her through Western Union. In a nutshell, the person made up a story that she was stuck in London with her family, had been mugged, and needed money to pay for the hotel and get home.

Below is a transcript of the conversation I had with my friend’s Facebook hacker / fraudster. Below that is a breakdown of my attempt to work with Western Union to solve this problem. It’s also worth nothing that the hacker wiped a lot of information off my friend’s Facebook profile, including her phone number so people couldn’t see her number and call her directly to verify the situation. They also turned off her wall so people couldn’t leave warnings for others about this scam.

(Friend of Ed)
Hey
How are you doing ??

12:04
(Friend of Ed)
glad you responded
i and my family are in some deep mess at the moment

12:04
Ed Kohler
oh?

12:05
(Friend of Ed)
we are currently stuck in London UK

12:05
Ed Kohler
on a vaca?

12:05
(Friend of Ed)
went on a short vacation unfortunately got mugged at a gun point last night
Scary!!!

12:06
Ed Kohler
Wow. I’d say.

12:11
(Friend of Ed)
i was hit at the back of my neck with the gun
all cash cellphones including credit card were stolen off by the muggers

12:12
Ed Kohler
not good

12:12
(Friend of Ed)
it was a brutal experience but i thank god we still have our lives and passport saved…i really need your help

12:13
Ed Kohler
What do you need?

12:14
(Friend of Ed)
our return flight leaves in few hours time from now and we are having problems settling the hotel bills and getting a cab down to the airport
wondering if i could get a quick loan from you
i promise to def refund it as soon as we get back home hopefully tomorrow

12:15
Ed Kohler
How much do you need?

12:17
(Friend of Ed)
1,250
Okay ?

12:18
Ed Kohler
What does that cover?

12:18
(Friend of Ed)
do you know how to get it to me ?

12:19
Ed Kohler
What would work for you?

12:19
(Friend of Ed)
yes…do you know how to get it to me ?

12:20
Ed Kohler
How?

12:20
(Friend of Ed)
you can have to send it on my name and present location via western union
kindly log on to www.westernunion.com
got it ?
….

12:22
Ed Kohler
How about I just pay the hotel directly?

12:23
(Friend of Ed)
i will also be needing some money to get a cab down to the hotel and also need some money for feeding
are you on the site now ?
???

12:25
Ed Kohler
How about I just pay the hotel directly?

12:26
(Friend of Ed)
i told you earlier i will also be needing some money to get cab down to the airport and we are totally freaked out here

12:26
Ed Kohler
I bet the hotel could pay for the cab. I could just pay that one bill for you.

12:26
(Friend of Ed)
we have nothing to feed on on the main time before getting on the flight
should i give you the info you need in wiring the money to me ?

12:28
Ed Kohler
yep
Does the hotel have a restaurant?

12:29
(Friend of Ed)
okay..here is the info you need

12:34
(Friend of Ed)
Name: (Friend of Ed)
Location: London United Kingdom
got it ?

12:35
Ed Kohler
What else do I need?

12:36
(Friend of Ed)
that all you need

12:36
Ed Kohler
is it set up now?
12:38
(Friend of Ed) connected

12:38
(Friend of Ed)
can i have your direct email address so i can email you..i have to rush down to the hotel room now to get our stuffs ready

(Friend of Ed)
you there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??

12:44
Ed Kohler
Yep. Do you have a Western Union account number I should send the money to?

12:44
(Friend of Ed)
all you need to do is send it on my name
i thank God i still have my valid ID passport to pick up the money

12:45
Ed Kohler
12:45
Could you let me know that you’re who you say you are?

The same fraudster also spoofed my friend’s email address to send emails to her Facebook contact’s email addresses:

I don’t know what wrong with my facebook account cos it really acting up…It’s me.. am sorry i did not inform you that i will be going on vacation,this is for real, i’m doing everything i can to work my way out of here peacefully.. i have checked with the consulate but there is nothing really working out, most important is i don’t have enough money on me, please i need you to loan me the money,i will def refund it as soon as am back home.

I owe you alot

While carrying on this chat, I called my friend and left her a voicemail to let her know that her Facebook had been hacked. I also reported her account as hacked through Facebook’s 419 Scam Report Form.

I then contacted Western Union’s fraud department to let them know that I had a fraudster on the hook, and would like to work with them to have the person arrested. Unfortunately, this did not go well. Rather than help figure out who the fraudster was, the Western Union fraud rep’s advice was to contact my friend and tell her that her Facebook account had been compromised. I explained to the rep that I was interested in solving the larger issue with the fraudster. I suggested that we work together to have the person arrested when they go to a Western Union office to pick up fraudulently acquired funds. I figured it would be worth transferring a few bucks through Western Union as bait to help catch the fraudster. Should that person walk into a Western Union office, the office could call the local police to have the person arrested.

Unfortunately, Western Union’s response to this request is that there was nothing they could do. That, of course, is a load of crap. Western Union clearly has the capability to flag a fraudulent transaction and notify authorities. They are simply choosing not to help fight criminal activity that leverages their money transferring system.

It makes me wonder how much money Western Union makes from fraudulent web scams such as 419 scams like this one. Their complete lack of interest in catching a person who’s using their business for criminal activities is shocking.

8 thoughts on “Western Union’s Fraud Control 419 Scam Fail”

  1. This kind of crap pisses me off. I love that you thought about the big picture. Maybe that rep at Western Union, or their policy makers, need a business ethics refresher.

  2. In this day and age, I wonder if Western Union does any other business EXCEPT criminal business. I know if someone ever tweets me a request to pony express them some unmarked bills, I’m going to be suspicious.

  3. Ditto. I wonder why Western Union doesn’t seem more concerned about this as well. Because of their lack of action, Western Union is now firmly associated with fraud in my mind. If a legitimate use for Western Union ever came along, I’d be too suspicious of fraud to ever take advantage of it. I sort of assume everything Western Union does is some kind of fraud.

  4. so your asking a western union representative to willfully put their employees or independent contractors in potential danger and your questioning why they wouldn’t go along with your plan?

  5. I agree with the obligation to report crimes but setting up a sting is crazy, I guess you could remove the western union employees and plant cops as employees but then who re-imburses western union for the time they are down for this operation?

    My wife works in retail – she sees theft all the time. Her corporate directive is to not directly intervene. They’ll make snarky comments like, “is they’re anything you’d like to purchase today?” but they can’t flat out call the shoplifters out- it’s against policy. Seems crazy but I and corporate would rather not have her get into a physical confrontation with a criminal over a candle or pillow case.

  6. yeah I have no problem with that, in fact you would think they would want any and all digital evidence ie usernames, ip addresses, zip codes, phone numbers etc.

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