“Today, Imagine you work in a place where you manage lost or forgotten items. What might you find in the pile? For those participating in our serial challenge reflect on the theme of “lost and found,” too.
What I Lost
I lost my decision-making power on May 13, 2014, when Western Union denied me the right to use the services they offer.
On May 19 , 2014, I received this letter from Western Union.
“This will confirm Western Union’s business decision to cancel the above-referenced Money Transfer and to refund to you the principal amount and service charges. Enclosed you will find a copy of our Consumer Fraud Brochure to assist you in recognizing some of the typical consumer fraud schemes so that you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of consumer fraud. We strongly recommend that you use Western Union system only to send money to people you know. Please remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”
Why I Needed Western Union
A close family member, living in another state, reached out for help. She needed to take care of an emergency, within 24-hours, and asked if I could loan her $1500.00.
“Of course,” I said , “Let me check to see how we can make this happen.”
First, I contacted my bank about a money transfer directly into her bank account. The bank said, “No, because we banked at two different institutions.”
When it didn’t work out at the bank, I telephoned Western Union. They were even able to handle the money transfer over the telephone with a credit card. After completing the transaction, I called the family member and said, “Money is on the way. You can pick it up at your Western Union office.”
Several hours later, Western Union called to say they couldn’t authorize the money transfer. Frustrated, I asked to speak with a supervisor. When connected, he asked:
- How old are you? I am 71-years-old.
- Why are you sending this person money? She is facing an emergency and needs the funds within 24 hours.
- How long have you known this person? She is 60+ years, my cousin, and I have known her since she was a baby.
- Has she ever borrowed money from you in the past? No.
- When did you last see this person? Two years ago at our family reunion. Also, we stay in contact on a regular basis through the telephone, e-mails and Facebook.
- Are you sure you were speaking with your relative? Yes.
After, I answered his questions, he read several section of their Consumer Protection Policy; and, ended by saying, “The only way we can process this transaction is for you to go to a local Western Union office.”
I Googled, “where is the closest Western Union Office to …” Fortunately it was only five minutes away.
Credit card and driver’s license in-hand, off I went to the Western Union Office. Transaction completed, I telephoned the family member and said, “Money is on the way.”
Forty-five minutes later, I received a call from Western Union. The representative said, “We cannot approve your money transfer. You will have to return to your local office and they will issue a refund.“
What the H…. is the Matter with Western Union?
As directed, I returned to the Western Union office. But this is what angered me most. Rather than crediting my Visa Card for the $1600.00, they issued issued a cash refund. Why didn’t they tell me this over the phone? Certainly, had I known, I would have asked Hubby to come with me.
While the agent was counting the money, I wondered, “How am I going to fit all of this money into my tiny wallet?”
Luckily, the Western Union Office is located within a grocery story. So, I went over and asked one of the baggers for a plastic grocery bag.
I left the Western Union Office alone with $1600.00 in cash, which I carried in a plastic grocery bag.
For the first time, throughout this entire experience, I needed protection. In their attempt to protect me from consumer fraud, Western Union put me at a higher risk to be mugged or robbed.
What I Found – This Didn’t Have to Happen
Had Western Union bothered to ask whether this money transfer related to any of the “fraud scamming scenarios” listed in their Consumer Protection Brochure; I would have answered:
- I was sending “money to a family member.”
- It was for an “emergency situation.”
- It wasn’t an “internet purchase.”
- It wasn’t for an “employment opportunity.”
- It wasn’t to “claim lottery or prize winnings.”
- It wasn’t for a “rental property.”
- It wasn’t for a “credit card or loan fee.”
- It wasn’t from a “check deposited in my account.”
From this experience, I found, within, strength to protest a possible discriminatory practice that took away my decision making right, as a 71-year-old, based on “elderly profiling.”
What do you think?
9 thoughts on “Writing 101, Day Sixteen: Serial Killer III”
Beautifully-written post about a particularly non-beautiful experience. Thank you for your clarity, strength, and bravery, which inspires me.
Thank you for your comments. During June I returned to the midwest twice — once for a graduation and the other a family reunion. As a result, I got behind on reading your daily post. Determined to catch up. I so enjoy your photography and hidden messages. I enjoy following you.
Thanks so much for letting me know. And welcome back!
Great post! I understand your frustration, but with so much fraud and so many scams, I can see why they were cautious. As for the cash, that’s a bit much! 😉 ♥
You are right. But, after writing the post I read an article posted on the National Council of Aging that 90% of frauds are carried out by family members. In this sense, Western Union may have been correct. But, should they have the right to make this decision for me? I don’t know.
For me the part that makes their decision off is that you had actually talked to your friend. And it is very shocking to me that they would send you away with cash. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I hope you file a complaint about that.
On the other hand, I have received the scam email that Western Union thought was going on twice in the past. Both times it came from people who were really good friends of mine. If I remember right in both instances I questioned it because I thought they would call me in that situation not write. As a result, I looked up the text of the email on the internet and found out it was a scam.
Considering you wrote about this today, I find it amazing that I received that same email a third time yesterday. This time it was from someone I knew, but who would never send me a request like that because we aren’t personal friends. She is a well known therapist and we have consulted about a client in the past. I have emailed with her before but we have never met.
I thought you might like to see the text of the email.
The subject line of the email was Horrible Trip
“Just hoping this email has reached you well, I’m sorry for this emergency and for not informing you about my urgent trip to Manila, Philippines but I just have to let you know my present predicament.
Everything was fine until I was attacked on my way back to the hotel, I wasn’t hurt but I lost my money, bank cards, mobile phone and my bag in the course of this attack.I immediately contacted my bank in other to block my cards and i also made a report at the nearest police station.
I’ve been to the embassy and they are helping me with my documentation so i can fly out but I’m urgently in need of some money to pay for my hotel bills and my flight ticket home. I will definitely REFUND you as soon as i get back home .
Kindly let me know if you would be able to help me out so I can forward you the details required for you to transfer funds to me.
Waiting to hear back from you..”
So my guess is some people must actually have received phone calls as well as this email. If that is the case, then the age discrimination would be that they thought you couldn’t recognize your own friend! But if it had come in email form, they have a right to be concerned. They must have been unwilling participants in that scam tens of thousands of times…. or even hundreds of thousands…… if not more.
I hope you find this information helpful.
And know I really liked your post. I’m glad you wrote about it.
Hi Karuna, sorry for the delay in responding to your comment, but I returned to the midwest two times during June — a graduation and a family reunion. So, blogging was placed on hold for two weeks. But, today, I finished writing the final post for Writing 101 and scheduled it to publish tomorrow morning. Thank you for encouraging me to stick with it.
The complaint against Western Union is pending — is it worth my time, will it make a difference, etc., etc. I am so far behind on more important things that I planned to do in order to improve the quality of my life; and, I see these as my priorities.
I’m glad you wrote about this, too. If they were trying to protect you from a scam, then good for them. But it sounds like they put you in danger, too, and so shame on them for doing that. I’m glad you’ve written about this. Elders are discriminated against in all kinds of ways that most people don’t realize or think about until they reach a certain age. It’s no fun.
LikeLiked by 1 person
You are so right. After this incident, I read an article published on the National Council on Aging Website and was surprised at the increase in scams against older people and that 90% of the scams are carried out by family members. I guess my reaction to Western Union is that they relied solely on age to make their determination. My situation did not fall under any of their own “scam red flags.” In fact, in their informational brochure it was stated, “do not send money to anyone other than a relative.” The person I was sending the money to was a first cousin I had known from the day she was born and was in constant contact with. Now, if she fails to pay me back, then I was scammed. In that case, Western Union may have protected me from this. But, is it their right. Perhaps, I am a little sensitive after experiencing so many years of being discriminated against as an African-American as well as a female based on stereotypical perceptions.