Valley Man Among Thousands Who Fell Victim to Western Union

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MISSION – The Texas Attorney General’s announced the beginning of the effort to refund thousands of Western Union wire fraud victims.

Hector Contreras of Mission said he was one of those victims.

Contreras told CHANNEL 5 NEWS he would do anything for a loved one. In August of last year, he learned his generosity can be a double-edged sword.

“Right away I jumped that I needed to help my nephew, you know?” he said.

Contreras got a call from his brother saying their nephew Kiko was in an accident.

“He says, ‘Kiko just called me and he had an accident in Corpus Christi,’" said Contreras, "and he’s going to call you from the place of the accident.”

Contreras then received a call from a person posing as his nephew.

“He spoke real good English and he sounded like my nephew too," he said.

Contreras told us the person on the other line handed the phone to the supposed person he crashed into.

“And he says, ‘your nephew has been real nice, very cooperative, he’s willing to pay what the accident is going to cost, and we’re needing $900,’" said Contreras.

Contreras wired the money with Western Union even though he didn’t have the full amount at the time.

He and his wife get by on their social security checks. He took an overdraft hit with his bank.

“We're on a very tight budget," said Contreras. "If anyone can survive on just social security, my hat’s off to them too.”

The person pretending to be his nephew claimed they would pay the money back, plus $300 the next day.

Contreras pieced the ploy together when he spoke to the real Kiko later in the day.

“I said, ‘did you get everything squared away with the police?’" said Contreras, “’With the accident that you had?’ And he said, ‘no! I haven’t had an accident.’ And I said, ‘well, I got scammed then.’”

About 39,000 Texans like Contreras were deceived into sending money to fraudsters. Many of the crooks claimed to be family members in need.

“With my brother introducing the person to me, that’s what really opened up Pandora's Box," Contreras said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement that reads in part:

“Scam artists are always looking for new ways to fool people into wiring them money, including schemes involving deceiving people into believing they are speaking with family members, romantic interests, lotteries or contests … These fraudsters will be held accountable for their abuse of hardworking Texans.”

The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission's settlement with Western Union requires the company to forfeit $586 million in refunds for victims.

“If I can get any kind of help, I would certainly appreciate it," said Contreras.

Once he makes his claim, help may finally be on the way.

Contreras said he and his wife took out several loans to tide them over.

Though it took months, they finally recovered. He plans on staking his claim as soon as he can.

If you or someone you know is looking to claim their refund, they can do so by visiting the Western Union Remission page on their website.

All claims must be submitted before Feb. 12, 2018.


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