The Western Union has repaid Fredrick Haines, a 77-year-old American, the sum of $110,000 which he’d paid to fraudsters who employed the infamous Nigerian Prince scam over 10 years ago.
According to a report by Daily Mail, Haines wired the sum, between 2005 and 2008, to scammers who promised him a $64 million inheritance if he made financial commitments.
Despite his loss happening around a decade ago, Haines will get his money back as a beneficiary of a $586 million fund set up by the Western Union to pay back victims of such scams throughout the United States and Canada.
The fund was set up after Western Union admitted in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that some of its employees had colluded with the scammers to defraud customers like Haines.
Haines, a self-employed handyman in Wichita, said he was initially sceptical when the scammers first contacted him through his Yahoo! email account in 2005 and and was promised a $64 million inheritance.
He told the Kansas City Star, “They started off with saying I was going to inherit $64 million, and right away I thought, ‘This is kind of a joke, or it’s a scam’. Those Nigerians know how to talk.”
He said after he started making financial contributions to the scammers, they convinced him at some point that the Nigerian president knew about him and even sent him a letter.
“It got to the point where they were showing me that the President of Nigeria had sent me a letter. It had his picture on it and everything. I looked it up on the computer to see what the Nigerian president looked like, and it was him,” he said.
Haines disclosed that the more investments he made, the harder it was to believe that he was being scammed especially after he got another email supposedly signed by then-director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Robert Mueller.
The email read, “I wish you can remove doubt and suspicious and go ahead I assured you that you will never regret this fund release.”
Haines had to remortgage his home three times to pay the total amount he sent to the scammers over the three-year period. He finally knew it was a scam after he was made to believe a supposed Nigerian man had been sent to deliver two suitcases full of cash to him at Wichita Airport. Nobody ever showed up.
He said, “So I go out to the airport and I start looking for him and he never showed up; and I start asking around and nobody knew who he was.”
The scammers continued to send him fake IDs, fake affidavits, and fake bank account holdings.
“If you get any information from a Nigerian, ignore it,” he warned others.
When Haines was contacted by the office of Kansas Attorney-General, Derek Schmidt, seeking to notify him that he might be eligible for a refund, he was optimistic he’d be a beneficiary.
“I thought, man, $580 million, yeah I should be able to get a little bit of that,” he said.
Haines was able to prove his claim to the refund after he filed every receipt and piece of correspondence he exchanged with the scammers.
Schmidt’s office had sent that letter of notification to 25,000 Kansas residents after Western Union admitted in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission to knowingly looking the other way regarding employees who had been helping scammers to steal money from its customers. Schmidt was concerned that the only people who knew about it were those who had already complained to law enforcement or reached out directly to Western Union.
The list of people contacted was obtained by his office from the Western Union after requesting for a list of Kansas residents who had sent large sums of money and any who had sent any sums of any amount to certain high-risk countries.
The $586 million fund covers victims of fraudulent transactions made through the Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017. The period for filing a refund claim closed on May 31, 2018, and recipients may have to wait more than a year for approval and processing of their refunds.
344 people in the state of Kansas, including Haines, have already claimed a total of $1,758,988 in refunds with help from Schmidt’s office.
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