In The Name Of Fraud

, , , , , | Right | June 15, 2017

(I work behind the service desk of a grocery store that offers Western Union. For fraud protection, the max amount of money you can send to someone without requiring ID (but must require a test question) is $299.00. For the past few months, a gentleman going by the name Willis would stop in to send money to the same two people every day. He claims that both of those people do not have ID and will send the max amount. After a week of this, I sense something odd going on so I talk to my manager. She waves it off and tells me to keep sending the money. This goes on for a few months until I’m sent to a different store for some training. As I’m closing up the desk at the store I’m training at, I’m sorting through some Western Unions and notice very familiar handwriting along with a very familiar address… The only problem is that the sender is going by the name ‘Thompson.’ The next day I’m back at my old store and Willis/Thompson walks up to send more money.)

Me: “I’m sorry but I can’t send money today.”

Customer: “Why not? You had no problem before.”

Me: “Because I can’t tell if you’re Willis today or Thompson. Which is it?”

(The customer hurried out of the store. It’s been three months and I haven’t seen the man return.)

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  • Kenneth Donnelly

    why use western union to launder money it would be far easier to get one of those top up Debit cards or buy gift-cards and then buy stuff and return it or sell it.

    • Marion George

      Some stores are requiring that store credits are attached to an ID now. No ID, you can’t use the store credit, and the ID must match the name given on the store credit.

      • Konton

        Plus, when trying to return an item bought with a gift card, the money is put back on to a new gift card, to help prevent this form of money laundering

      • SgtFraggleRock

        But I’ve been told that requiring an ID for things is racist.

        • tulip_poplar

          Only when it’s being used in a deliberate effort to disenfranchise certain minorities.

          • SgtFraggleRock

            I always felt it was rather racist to assume that “certain minorities” are too stupid to get ID.

          • tulip_poplar

            What it’s based on are studies showing that certain demographics are less likely to have ID. It’s not based on assumptions at all, like someone being too “stupid” to get ID. It’s just a fact that certain populations are less likely to have ID, for whatever reason.

          • SgtFraggleRock

            Just say “black people” and be honest about it.

            You need ID to do virtually anything. Get prescriptions, drive, get a job, buy an M-rated video game for Pete’s sake.

            Enabling behavior that stunts upward mobility is not a good thing.

          • tulip_poplar

            Um, I didn’t say “black people” because nothing I said was code for “black people.” The demographic groups involved are not just “black people.” And now you’re getting all judgmental about people not having ID, revealing your own thoughts about “black people” and “enabling behavior that stunts upward mobility”, which has nothing to do with the original topic of deliberately disenfranchising people you don’t think are going to vote for you, so I think we’re done here.

          • SgtFraggleRock

            Yeah..,I’m sure you were talking about Asian Americans.

            Yes, if you don’t have ID, that’s a sign you are either a 90 year old housewife or a loser.

            All voter ID laws have had options for getting free ID.

            How do you even get a legal, taxpaying job without ID? The paperwork involved is far more difficult and time-consuming that getting an ID. Unless, maybe, you have warrants or are not an American citizen.

          • tulip_poplar

            Wow, okay, the racism has come fully out into the open here. Signing off and blocking you.

          • SgtFraggleRock

            Yes, your holding “certain minorities” to a lower standard than everyone else certainly exposes your racism.

            After all, illegal aliens in California get driver’s licenses, so it obviously isn’t difficult even without proper paperwork.

          • Many people have IDs which are sufficient for those tasks, but are insufficient for the purposes of voting. Getting a voting “approved” ID generally requires spending extra money, as well as spending hours (sometimes days) at the DMV (or other place) to get it. Folks who work minimum wage jobs often can’t just take time off without being penalized, and even if they can, they often don’t get paid vacations, so they lose out on a day’s wages just to get that ID (which they wouldn’t need for anything BUT voting.) In other words, it’s nothing but a resurrection of the old Jim Crow era “poll taxes,” which were rightly ruled Unconstitutional.

            Add to that the increasingly onerous requirements to even get an “voting approved” ID – a birth certificate isn’t sufficient now in many states, and the process of getting all of the various documents can mean extra expense and time, making the process that much more onerous, and sometimes simply impossible, as some folks may just not even have access to all of the documents the government is requesting – or at least not without spending days and dollars at various records offices trying to navigate the Byzantine bureaucracy. (Strange that the party of “government can never do anything right” seems to think that getting an ID is the one area where it’s suddenly hyper-efficient.)

            Let’s also not forget that Republican lawmakers have actually been recorded saying that they favor these stricter ID laws only because they know it will depress turnout for the other side. They aren’t actually concerned about voter fraud – so one must ask why Republicans aren’t more furious that their own leaders feel the need to lie to them just to score political wins.

            The point is that requiring ID isn’t “racist,” per se, but it ignores the reality faced by many people (and yes, many of them are minorities) who would be disenfranchised by requiring more ID than they already have (ID that is generally sufficient for their everday lives) – just to correct a problem that hasn’t even been proven to exist, certainly not at the level that it’s worth causing so much of an upset. We’ve seen that voter fraud isn’t this widespread problem that’s actually affecting the outcome of elections. We’ve also seen that these IDs actually do disenfranchise populations. So one asks: what’s the actual purpose of these laws? The answer ought to be obvious to anyone willing to look at the question honestly.

  • Deadpool

    Notice the manager doesn’t care so long as they get their cut.

    • Cathrope

      How deep of a cut are we talking about? Just a hair trim or the entire neck?

      • Jesen

        A close shave, either way

        • Cathrope


        • Kitty

          “But first… a shave.”
          “The closest I ever gave.”

    • SgtFraggleRock

      I think the manager just doesn’t care, period.

  • Ainoko_Ironrose

    This would be when I would gather up all Western Union forms from both stores and go to the Western Union fraud department to show them that someone is committing fraud by using at least two different names under the same address. It’s a safe bet that Willis/Thompson is going by numerous alias’ in numerous locations that has Western Union.

    What Willis/Thompson is/was doing is called fraud.

    My question for you OP is this…

    Why in all that’s holy, did you not gather up all evidence you could find from both locations and report this fraud to Western Union.

    • Deadpool

      Because clearly the manager didn’t care. Though it would have been fun if they had gone straight to the police.

      • Judy Jones

        Grown-ups are supposed to do what’s RIGHT, not what’s convenient.

      • Ainoko_Ironrose

        Even if the manager or managers didn’t give a dam about the fraud, OP should have reported the fraud to the relevant people.Because if the defecation would have hit the rotary oscillator, it would be a safe bet that OP’s managers would have thrown them under the bus stating that they never told them about the fraud.

    • Rob Tonka

      You seem to understand what’s going on.

      I don’t have a clue what this story is about.

      Other than this dude figuring out a way to send money without having to show id.

      Can you explain to me what exactly is going on that is a crime?

      • Joana Hill

        Most likely money laundering. He sends tons of money (OP says he came in every day and sent the max amount) that is received by someone else through a third party. Most likely the man was doing something like selling drugs, selling illegal firearms, or whatever.

        • Rob Tonka

          Help me. I still don’t get it.

          Never really understood what money laundering is.

          What is the end game to sending his drug money to someone else over western union?

          • Joana Hill

            It “cleans it”. The US Treasury says “Money laundering is the process of making illegally-gained proceeds (i.e. “dirty money”) appear legal (i.e. “clean”). Typically, it involves three steps: placement, layering, and integration. First, the illegitimate funds are furtively introduced into the legitimate financial system. Then, the money is moved around to create confusion, sometimes by wiring or transferring through numerous accounts. Finally, it is integrated into the financial system through additional transactions until the “dirty money” appears “clean.””

            So basically when you have illegal money, you launder it by moving it around a whole lot until it can no longer be tracked as having come from illegal activities. Wiring through Western Union is one method.

          • Harold Wagner

            The guys in Office Space would have loved to know this.

          • ieatworms

            That isnt how you launder money. If anything it creates a paper trail…

          • Joana Hill

            That is exactly how you launder money, though wire transfers aren’t always involved, and clearly the guy in the story wasn’t very good at it. You’re supposed to do it in small amounts at a time, not almost three hundred dollars at least twice a day for weeks.

          • ShadeTail

            Step one: “Willis” earns a bunch of money through illegal methods.

            Step two: “Willis” spreads his illegal money into multiple smaller wire transfers to evade the ID requirements.

            Step three: the person he sends it to takes a small cut and sends it on to someone else.

            Step four and onward: each person in the chain takes a small cut and sends it to the next person.

            Step final: the last person in the chain then sends it back to “Willis”, and thanks to all the transfers, nobody outside the chain knows where it originally came from. “Willis” can now spend his illegal money safely.

          • Rob Tonka

            But if there’s no id involved in any of those transactions, I don’t see how this “launders” the money in any way.

            If I hand Wilson a paper bag of money I got from selling drugs and he walks next door and hands it to someone there, keeping $5 for himself. And that person walks next door and does the same, and this process is repeated a few times til finally someone comes back to me and hands me a bag of money that is $50 lighter, it seems to me that its the same effect as what’s been described for Western union. No id involved. So no tracking of the money. I feel like I’d be in the same boat before and after this series of transactions. I got some money thru illegal means, and I can’t provide any evidence of it being from legitimate sources, except now, I have less of it.

          • Carrie

            Because if they ask where the funds came from they can honesty sat “Western Union.” It’s “clean” in the sense that it came from a legitimate source. One of the red flags in life insurance is someone surrendering an annuity right awat, despite high surrender charges. A person who got the money through legit means wouldn’t want to lose so much to the carrier. The guy wanting a check from a legit source, however, is much less concerned about it because in their eyes, they are still ahead.

          • Jeff

            Avoiding ID requirements is, in and of itself, violating Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing regulations.

            This is the stuff that will get Homeland Security on your ass.

            In fact, by failing to report this to the appropriate authorities, WU itself becomes liable for civil and even criminal penalties.

          • Kathy Plester

            Basically you try to put illegally gotten money through legitimate channels such as banks or western unions etc. Other ways to do this is they use illegal money to buy property, which they then sell, and the money they get is now ‘clean’. To keep is simple, the idea is to keep moving the money until the trail is so obscured it is hard to tell where the original money is, so police would find it hard to prove they got that money from doing something illegal. In other words, it is covering up the true origin of the money so if police go ‘where did you get this money from?’ they can say ‘Oh this was from the sale of this property, and this was western union money sent as a gift (and there’s no ID so they can’t prove anyone suspected to be involved sent it).

      • Ainoko_Ironrose

        The customer Willis/Thompson was most likely laundering money. As the OP stated any Western Union transaction that is $300.00 or higher requires ID from both the sender and receiver. Basically, the customer was sending $299.00 every day at at least two locations.

        So the smart thing to do, which is also the right thing to do, is to report this to Western Union’s fraud department so they can see how many locations this guy is using to send the maximum no ID amount ber day.

  • AmoebaStampede

    “Whatchyou talkin’ about, Thompson?”

  • Michael Bugg

    This should have been named “Stop! In the Name of Fraud . . .”

    • NessaTameamea

      When I read the title I heard U2 in my head. Your idea is better though.

  • jdb1984

    So is he sending money to himself through Western Union? As long as the money is real, I fail to see how it’s fraud.

    • LordViking

      I wasn’t sure either what this was about at first, but it appears it was a form of money laundering.
      The money itself was probably real, but the way Willis/Thompson obtained the money was most likely illegal.

    • Dsru Bin

      He’s allowed to send $299 per day, so he goes to multiple WUs and sends $299 from each of them using a different name. Not necessarily fraud (on a legal scale), but highly suspicious.

      • Donnell Hanog

        It IS fraud. He’s using different identities and locations to evade the maximum daily sending limit. In other words, he is fraudulently sending more money than he is legally allowed to without ID.

        • Dsru Bin

          Perhaps I misunderstand. Is the $299 limit set by WU or is it a gov’t requirement? I assumed it was the first, but if it’s the second, then I agree.

  • Andrew Garrard

    Agreed with the others – you need to report this to your fraud service (now, if not three months ago). And quite possibly report it to the police, if you don’t want to be considered complicit in allowing the crime. A criminal customer isn’t the same thing as a “not right” customer, although it’s pleasing that you caught them in it.

  • Harold Wagner

    Managers like her are the reason fraudsters like using Western Union. Clearly a lot of WU managers don’t care because many people get scammed into using WU to send fraudsters money.

  • sunshine20011

    Of course it is fraud, but it’s not unheard of for people to legally use two names. I’m a professional actor and due to Union rules legally can not work under my birth name, so I have to have two names. I have a (business) bank account and credit card under my stage name and personal bank account under my real name, both with the same bank.

    • SgtFraggleRock

      I assume your bank account are DBA (Doing Business As) accounts.

      Plus, you’d at least have ID for your real name.

  • Kathy Plester

    I don’t know if there is more to this story that OP has left out but in telling the customer they know, they have tipped them off which is illegal (certainly in the UK although as I understand it money laundering and fraud prevention is a universal law across most western countries to make cooperation easier, particularly as money laundering often involves sending money abroad). Even if you suspect fraud you cannot tell them.

    Also OP didn’t report this or gather up evidence (again not sure if this happened in the background) – OP has a legal obligation to report any fraud no matter their rank – even a janitor or night staff must report anything fraud related. But even if they did gather evidence and report it, they still tipped off the fraudster. Big no-no. It might even get you wrangled in as an accessory in the crime.