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Wire-transfer firm agrees to settlement

A major money transfer corporation agreed Monday to pay $8.1 million to settle concerns that scam artists use the wire service.

The agreement comes after years of urging Western Union to make right on fraudulent wire transfers within Utah and 46 states. According to a statement from the office of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, the money will be used to fund a national consumer awareness program to protect people from being misled into giving money to deceitful telemarketers and other criminals.

"When these con artists say you win, you lose," Shurtleff said. "We hope this consumer awareness campaign will convince people they don't need to give money in order to claim a legitimate prize."

More than 29 percent of Western Union transfers in excess of $300 from the United States and Canada are fraud-induced and those frauds represent 58 percent of the total dollars transferred, based on a survey conducted in seven states prior to the agreement. In 2002, the total American consumer losses to Canada were estimated at $113 million.

Some of the terms of the agreement include placing prominent fraud warnings in English and Spanish on the front of Western Union's send forms and online. Western Union agents will receive monthly anti-fraud e-mails, agents employing fraudulent practices will be terminated and Western Union will block wire transfers from specific consumers if there is reason to believe fraud will occur.