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‘There is a duty to protect people from fraud:’ Scam victims who used Western Union eligible for refunds

SHEBOYGAN -- The faceless thieves behind today's scams --  online and on the phone --  often never face any consequences. Now, the middleman is being held responsible. It means hundreds of people in Wisconsin could be getting their money back.

Barbara Bushek-Greve goes over Western Union paperwork Contact 6's Jenna Sachs.

Among those is Barbara Bushek-Greve of Sheboygan.

Her troubles began two years ago when she wanted to add two birds to her family. Bushek-Greve tried to buy two South American Sun Conures from a man online.

"He had pictures of these birds, had testimonials from people who had gotten birds from him," Bushek-Greve recalled.

In the end, it was a scam and an expensive one.

"It wound up adding up to $3,800," Bushek-Greve said.

Since then, Bushek-Greve got another pair of Sun Conures from a Wisconsin breeder. Now, there's a good chance she'll finally get her money back from ones she tried to purchase through the scam.

Bushek-Greve has all her receipts for the payments she wired to the scammer through Western Union.

As part of a major settlement, Western Union must pay $586 million to victims of scams, like Bushek-Greve, who lost money after sending it to thieves through its money transfer service.

"The complaints were that Western Union was not doing an adequate job of protecting customers from fraudulent activity," explained Jay Risch, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

As a result, anyone who lost money between January 1, 2004, and January 19, 2017, can file claims online to recoup their money.

"When in doubt, they should absolutely file a claim," Risch recommended.

Risch says this settlement came about after Western Union was accused of ignoring a lot of red flags.

"There is a duty to protect people from fraud," Risch said.

The FTC and U.S. Department of Justice say Western Union was long aware of fraudsters using its service but failed to put effective anti-fraud procedures in place.

Jay Risch, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, chats with Contact 6's Jenna Sachs about the Western Union refund settlement.

This settlement is the largest financial forfeiture by a money service business.

"It's also setting a variety of parameters to ensure this sort of thing won't happen again," Risch said.

After years of no hope, Bushek-Greve is suddenly optimistic a big check is headed her way.

"That would be lovely it really would," she said. "That's huge. It really is, for us, it is."

The deadline to file a claim is May 31.

If you want to file a claim, you'll be asked for any documentation you have, but you can still file a claim without any. You can file a claim HERE.

It may take upwards of a year before checks are mailed out.