Here is a company that caters to many lower income, economically challenged people. That's why they can get away with something like this:
I utilized the internet service offered by Western Union for purposes of sending money to another state quickly. A relative was in dire need. The confirmation online confirmed the transaction was ready for pick up immediately, around 11AM and specified the city of residence of the intended recipient, as the pick up location. I called my relative with this information and the money transfer number.
Later that evening, when my relative attempted to collect the money from the Western Union within the designated area, we learned that the money had been collected shortly after I completed the transaction that morning, in a location that was not even designated in the confirmation. Western Union advised that they would initiate an investigation that would take 7-14 days. If I had 7-14 days to spare, I would have sent a check and avoided the exorbitant fees charged by Western Union for the benefit of "money in minutes."
Over the month that followed I called to inquire at least 4 times. One time, the representative was apolgetic about the unreasonable delay of 3 weeks that I was forced to endure and promised to follow up. However, no one followed up and I had to keep calling if I wanted to be updated. I then learned that they had concluded their investigation and had decided that the proper recipient had received the money, after all. I asked for the criteria used in determining the "proper" recipient, since the intended recipient was never contacted during the course of the investigation. Of course, they were not permitted to disclose without a subpoena due to consumer privacy laws in New York, though we still don't know which one in particular.
I have a few points of contention:
Western Union promises a money transfer in 15 minutes or less - this is the only reason anyone agrees to pay the ridiuclous $30+ fee. However the investigation into what happened to this obviouusly urgent money takes a month.
2) Delivery of Money:
If this is subject to the sort of compromise I experienced, they have to make this information available for all to see. Something like: WE CANNOT GUARANTEE THAT THE RECIPIENT WILL EVER RECEIVE THE MONEY, AND WE WILL NEVER DISCLOSE THE IDENTITY OF THE THIEF WHO CAN EASILY INTERCEPT THE TRANSACTION AND COLLECT THE MONEY BEFORE THE INTENDED RECIPIENT. I would never have sent it if I knew this was even a remote possiblity. Not with all the fraud advice all over the website.
3) Negligence or Fraud:
I had to cancel my bank card because I believe there was an interception during my transcation on the internet and this was the only way the unintended recipient could have obtained the information needed to pick up the money. The Western Union employee actually told me this was not necessary, because he was sure that it was something that happens often with their money transfers: according to him, sometimes the agent accidentally hits the wrong buttons which results in the money appearing to be paid when in fact it is still available. Good thing I did not listen to his advice about my bank account, since the next bit of advice they gave me involved filing a report with law enforcement as a fraud victim. Moreover, if this is a common occurence, why isn't there a quicker process in place? Rather, it takes a month to figure it out, which is thoroughly inconsistent with the fast-money-theory. In the meanwhile, the "urgent money" may have to be resent, obviously not by Western Union ever again, doubling the sender's financial expediture.
4. Poor Customer Service
Western Union never once called me about the results of their investigation. I had to pursue this until the end.
5. Rights of Thief are Superior to those of Customer
They based their decision on a satisfactory examination of evidence that they refuse to disclose. I asked for the details of the identification and they told me they were not permitted to disclose this information; that consumer privacy laws preclude disclosure - the consumer they are protecting is the "thief" obviously, since both sender and recipient would gladly waive any such rights if asked. However, neither sender nor recipient was ever contacted during the course of the investigation. I am 100% certain the identification that was presented would show that the money was given to the wrong person. My relative carries an uncommon form of identification and he has used it at Western Union on several occassions in the past. Strangely enough, Western Union said that the fact that they would not have a record of previous transactions with them for purposes of verfication. That begs the question: do they even have a record of the transaction involving the unintended recipient? If they don't how can they conclusively say the intended recipient collected the money?
6. Disparate Treatment as usual for Lower Income Bracket
After I demanded their investigation details, a month later, they suggested I file a report with law enforcment. However, without the details of the investigation, I would be wasting law enforcement's precious resources. Besides, Western Union now considers the matter closed. They can do this knowing their customers fall into the lower income, economically-challenged category and well, what are you going to do? It's not like they can afford a lawyer. They don't even try to state the specific law that they rely on in justifying their refusal to disclose information, because well, chances are, poor thing can't even read too well, right? Chances are, they will get away with this over and over again...
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