SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Victims of a popular scam may be able to recoup some of their losses after Western Union announced it will pay back people who wired money to scammers through the company.

Campbell resident Laura May thought she was helping her grandson get out of a lock-up in Mexico when she wired $2,700 through Western Union.

“He told me he was in trouble in Mexico,” May said. “They had him in a holding cell.”

But like many, she was duped by the grandma scam. The money went to crooks.

But now, May could get some of her money back.

To settle charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, Western Union has agreed to pay $586 million to reimburse victims in all 50 states who used Western Union to wire money to scammers between 2004 and January of 2017.

There are at least half a million victims.

Despite warnings, the money transfer service is used by con artists as a non-traceable way to steal money from victims, convincing people they had to wire funds to help loved ones, pay the IRS and a variety of other scams.

Western Union says it shares the government’s goal of protecting consumers from fraud and is fully cooperating to see that consumers are reimbursed.

The company also agreed to make changes like putting anti-fraud warnings on forms that consumers use to wire money, providing mandatory training for Western Union agents, and putting in more anti-fraud protections.

Protections that many say are long overdue.

A special website has been set up to process claims. It’s westernunionremission.com.

Western Union states that victims will receive a percentage of the amount they wired, but it’s not saying how big that percentage will be.

All claims must be filed by February 12, 2018.

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