A Canadian soft-core porn star has become a favorite of “lonely heart” scammers who steal her identity to attract lonely heart victims on Google Plus. (Photo: Josie Ann Miller)

Western Union, identified in a IM investigative series as a main conduit for sex fraudsters to get money from victims, has agreed to develop an anti-fraud program as part of a $586 million settlement with state and federal prosecutors.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the settlement with the Colorado-based company.

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“Criminal scam artists are adept at creating all kinds of schemes to convince consumers to wire them money,” he said in a statement.

“I encourage New Yorkers be extra vigilant when responding to advertisements, solicitations, and phone calls, which are too often peddled by fraudsters,” he added.

Western Union Anti-Fraud program
• Consumer anti-fraud warnings on the front page of money transfer forms;
• Mandatory training and education for Western Union’s agents about fraud-induced wire transfers;
• Increased scrutiny of agent locations whose fraud complaints exceed certain thresholds;
• Background checks on prospective Western Union agents who process money transfers;
• Monitoring of Western Union agent activity to prevent fraud-induced money transfers;
• Prompt and appropriate disciplinary action against Western Union agents who fail to follow required protocols.

In addition to New York, all 49 states and the District of Columbia participated in the settlement.

The multi-state investigation was based on consumer complaints that Western Union was facilitating frauds by acting as a no-questions-asked conduit to transfer funds.

The settlement requires Western Union to develop a “comprehensive anti-fraud program” to help detect and prevent incidents where consumers who have wired money to scam artists.

In addition, Western Union agreed to pay $586 million to compensate fraud victims nationwide through a related settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s also paying $5 million to cover legal fees.

The agreement also encompasses separate claims by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.

Last February, New York and 48 other states and the District of Columbia, entered into a similar settlement with MoneyGram.

One of the common scams identified by the investigation were so-called “romance scams.”

In March last year, IM published a series of articles identifying how West African gangs and possibly even ISIS was using Google’s social media site, Google Plus, to reach out to individuals, claiming to be love-lorn women.

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— Google Hangouts a Haven for Scams, Possible Conduit for Islamic State
— Francoise: Anatomy of Sex, Money, Marriage Scam on Google Plus
— Sex Scam Queen: ‘Devil in Flesh of a Fairy’ Preys on Lonely Hearts
— Canadian Porn Star’s Face Launches a Thousand ‘Lonely Heart’ Scams (pics)

Some of the scams proved to be highly sophisticated–and convincing. They included photos, videos, protestations of love and ultimately a request for money.

Google did not return repeated phone calls for comment, even thought it’s social media site was a major platform enabling fraudsters to perpetrate their schemes.

Other scams identified in the investigation include: Lottery and contest scams, grandparent scams, tax scams and loan offers, work-at-home opportunities, magazine sales, credit card offers, business opportunities and travel deals.

For more information about the settlement and being reimbursed, click here.