If you deal in money transfer, boy, you'd better be very careful about the procedures. Kishan Patel, who trades in a high street position in North London's Barnet, has done some good business with Western Union money transfer, having been an agent for the past year.
Then last September that changed. Says Kishan: "£3,500 was paid out over three transactions, to three different customers, and Western Union says it was paid out incorrectly. Yet these customers from different countries came in to claim their money with a 'money transfer control number' plus a passport. I matched all the details and followed the computer prompts."
Western Union disagreed and said he had various faults in his system, ie names incorrectly registered and no agent signature. Kishan asks, if he was wrong, why did Western Union not cut him off rather than offering to split the loss 50/50? He added that Bus Pass and Camelot would cut you off in an instant if they thought you had broken the rules.
I spoke at length to Henk Elzenga, managing director of Fexco, which runs 98% of Western Union's retailer network, amounting to about 4,000 agents dotted around the UK.
Starting with Kishan's last point, Elzenga says: "We were at least being flexible. We offered to take 50% of the hit as this is his first incidence and he can pay it back over the next five months from his commission. We are as much a victim as he is. There were mistakes in the procedures."
Apparently, there are plenty of smart fraudsters out there. They deliberately spoil the form and later claim on it. In one case, says Elzenga, instead of the name Michael, the con man put Microphone.
Doing money transfer can be a good deal for the retailer, with a commission of 14% (which comes down to about 10% after bank charges) but, whew, if it goes wrong, remember you are dealing in big sums with some clever clogs out there to contend with, who probably could have been brain surgeons but preferred the quick profits of crime.