By Julie Grant

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you were tricked by scammers into wiring money through Western Union, you may be able to get your money back.

This is thanks to a big legal settlement between Western Union and the federal government. The Department of Justice, the US Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Trade Commission went after Western Union for essentially looking the other way when these fraudulent transfers were happening.

Western Union agreed to pay up to the tune of $586 million. Now, the DOJ is using that money to give refunds to people who were tricked into using Western Union to pay scammers.

You can file to get your lost money back if you wired it because of a scam through Western Union during the time frame of January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017.

“Western Union may have actually been complicit in the sense that they turned the other way. They did not monitor transactions properly,” said Mary Bach, Chairwoman of AARP’s Consumer Issues Taskforce in PA.

Bach was pleased to learn of the settlement.

“There were some locations where literally all of the transactions appear now to have been fraudulent ones,” Bach said.

According to the DOJ, 500,000 refund petitions have already been mailed out to identified victims. They can be returned online or by mail.

If you didn’t receive one, you can still file at westernunionremission.com.

“It’s definitely a lot of people, but it doesn’t surprise me at all because this is a global situation and it involves consumers literally in countries all over the world,” Bach said.

Particulars on the process can be found at www.ftc.gov/WU.

For instance, the kind of scams covered by the refunds are internet scams, lottery or prize scams, emergency or grandparent scams, advance-free loan scams and online dating scams. According to the FTC, even if you do not have documentation of the transfer, you can still petition for a refund.

“Any time anybody asks you to send money, whether it’s through a reputable company like Western Union or some other type, take a step back and make sure you know what you’re getting into,” Bach said.

All claims must be submitted by February 12, 2018.

According to the FTC, there is no guarantee you will get a refund. If the DOJ verifies your claim, the amount you get back will depend on how much you lost and how many other victims submit valid claims.

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