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Western Union, states to fight international fraud

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Western Union Financial Services will post prominent warnings to customers about fraudulent telemarketers who are increasingly requiring consumers to wire money because it is harder to trace, according to an agreement Monday with 47 state attorneys general.

A two-year review after hundreds of complaints found 38 percent of transfers from the United States to Canada during 2003 were ``fraudulently induced,'' according to the committee's announcement.

Western Union, part of the Denver-based First Data Corp., wasn't accused of any wrongdoing. Still, it has agreed to pay $8.1 million toward a national consumer awareness program to reach 3 million of the most vulnerable customers.

Older consumers have been targeted most by the fraudulent telemarketers, which were often based in Canada and other countries, the state officials said.

The scams often tricked consumers into wiring substantial amounts of money through sweepstakes, lottery, advance loan fees and other means.

```Scam artists' use of wire transfer services to fraudulently obtain moneys from unwitting consumers is a persistent and serious problem in New York state, especially for some of our most vulnerable residents, such as senior citizens,'' said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

The agreement includes:

_ Reimbursing any wire transfer and fee to any consumer who requests, before the pickup of a transfer, to stop the transfer because of fraud concerns.

_ Distributing anti-fraud e-mails to Western Union agents and revising training.

_ Firing any agents who assisted in fraud, and firing or suspending any agents who don't take preventive action

_ Blocking transfers between specific customers and telemarketers if fraud is suspected.

_ Developing a computer system to spot likely fraud and increase anti-fraud staff.

The company will also pay $400,000 to the states and put warnings on wire transfer forms.

A Western Union spokesman had no immediate comment.

Western Union agreed to the measures with state attorneys general and other consumer protection officials from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the District of Columbia and the Mariana Islands.
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