DES MOINES — Iowans who were defrauded via a scam involving the wiring of money through MoneyGram could be eligible for compensation as part of a $100 million national forfeiture fund, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said Tuesday.
The scam took place from 2004 through 2009, Miller said.
Last year, MoneyGram International Inc. agreed to forfeit $100 million to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The Dallas-based global money services company admitted to aiding and abetting wire fraud through mass marketing and consumer fraud that caused tens of thousands of victims to lose money from “advance fee” schemes and similar scams, the Iowa attorney general said.
Through an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the government’s Victim Asset Recovery Program is returning the forfeited money to eligible wire fraud victims who file claims.
“Our investigators routinely hear from Iowans who tell us heartbreaking stories about losing large amounts of money they wired to very convincing con artists,” Miller said in a statement.
“These criminals are generally overseas, they are very good at what they do, and they often target older people,” he said. “Once victims wire the money, it’s just like handing over cash. It’s gone and, unfortunately, recovering the money is almost always out of our reach.”
The scams generally targeted the elderly and other vulnerable victims with promises they would receive large cash prizes or be eligible for employment opportunities as “secret shoppers.” They also offered various high-ticket items for sale over the Internet at deeply discounted prices or placed distressed phone calls posing as the victim’s relative and claiming to be in trouble and in urgent need of money.
After establishing an online relationship with a victim, the individual — who has assumed an identity — would concoct a personal crisis or ask for travel money, Miller said.
In each case, criminals required victims to wire money through MoneyGram in order to receive a promised product or service, but the victims never received what they were promised, he said.
Those who lost money as a result of the MoneyGram schemes between Jan. 1, 2004, and Aug. 31, 2009, may be eligible for compensation. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division notified 66 victims who filed complaints about their fraud cases totaling $173,000 in losses, but eligible victims who did not file complaints also may be eligible, he said.
MoneyGram wire fraud victims can go to the settlement administrator’s website at gilardi.com/moneygram for compensation claim information. Victims also can call 1-877-282-2610. Eligible victims must file claims by Nov. 15.