Western Union Scam Email on Laptop Screen
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Western Union ‘Poverty Alleviation Program’ Advance Fee Scam

by Brett M. Christensen

Outline

Email purporting to be from Western Union claims that you have been approved to receive the sum of $1,500,000 in the poverty alleviation program.  The message claims that you will be paid in daily instalments of $7,600 via Western Union and should contact the pay-out department for more information on your ‘prize status’. 

Brief Analysis

The email is not from Western Union and you have not won any money whatsoever.  This is a typical advance fee scam designed to trick you into sending your money and personal information to cybercriminals.

Examples

2019 version
Western Union Scam Email

 

2016 version
Poverty Alleviation Program Scam Email

 

Detailed Analysis

According to this email, which claims to be from money transfer service Western Union, you have been approved to receive the sum of 1.5 million US dollars as part of the poverty alleviation program. Supposedly, your prize will be paid in daily instalments of $7600 via Western Union.

The email includes the Western Union logo and the familiar yellow colour used by the company. It instructs you to contact the pay-out department via email or phone to get more information about claiming your unexpected windfall. 
But, alas, the email is not really from Western Union and you are certainly not set to receive 1.5 million dollars.

In fact, the email is a typical advance fee scam designed to trick you into sending your money and personal details to cybercriminals. Versions of the email have been distributed since at least 2016.

If you fall for the ruse and contact the pay-out department as instructed, you will soon begin receiving requests to pay various upfront fees that are supposedly required to allow processing of your prize. The scammers will claim that the money is to cover expenses such as banking, taxation, and legal fees.

They will warn that, if all of these supposed fees are not paid in advance, you will forfeit your claim to the prize money and it will be awarded to somebody else. They will explain that the fees cannot be paid out of the prize money itself under any circumstances. And, they will continue to ask for more and more of your money until you either run out of available funds or finally realise that you are being conned.

When the scam has run its course, the criminals will simply disappear with your money.

And, to make matters worse, the criminals may have managed to gather a large amount of your personal and financial information, supposedly as a means of verifying your identity and allowing the transfer of the prize. They may later use this accumulated information to steal your identity. Or, they might sell your information to other criminals who will, in turn, use it for identity theft.

Advance fee scams like this one have been around for many years. Nevertheless, people all around the world still fall for them.  Be very wary of any message that claims that you have been awarded a large sum of money in a lottery, promotion, award program, or grant that you know nothing about and have never signed up for.



Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer