7 On Your Side: How to send money overseas safely

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Tens of billions of dollars are transferred by foreign born individuals in the United States to households overseas, so how do you do it safely?

Efforts by a Richmond women to wire money overseas were frustrated when the money never arrived. After failing to get an explanation, she contacted 7 On Your Side.

Federal regulators estimate that in 2010 tens of billions of dollars were transferred by foreign born individuals in the United States to households overseas. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself.

Ivy Ruslin of Richmond has many mementos from her home country of Indonesia. Her mother and brother still live there and she wanted to send $500 to help pay for her mom's medical bills.

"So on June 12, I went to MoneyGram in Walmart in Hilltop Mall and wired the money, so my brother will pick up the money," Ruslin said.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that in 2010 more than $37.1 billion was sent from immigrants in the United States to foreign households. Ivy said her brother never received the money. MoneyGram says the money had been refunded to Ruslin at her request.

But Ruslin said she never asked for a refund or received one. So she called MoneyGram with lots of questions.

"'Where's my money?' And the guy said, 'The money's been gone.' 'Where's my money?' And the guy said, 'Oh, we cannot verify who took the money,'" Ruslin said.

Ruslin said she and Money Gram had both been scammed. Finding out who scammed them will be difficult.

The non-profit Consumer Action of San Francisco has published a pamphlet offering advice on sending money overseas. Joe Ridout is their spokesperson.

Ridout said, "Well, money orders, wire transfers, there is not very many protections when you compare that to what's available for debit cards and especially credit cards."

Those protections include the right to cancel a transaction within 30 minutes of making one.

Ridout said, "You can initiate an investigation of a loss or a stolen money order for up to six months, but again if somebody picked it up and cashed it, you're not going to be getting that money back."

"I'm supposed to pay for my mom's medical bill. That really, really concerns me because they need the money," Ruslin said.

Ruslin contacted 7 On Your Side for assistance and MoneyGram told us, "MoneyGram was alerted by one of its customers, Ms. Rustin, that recently she may have been a victim of consumer fraud. An investigation into the surrounding circumstance ensued. MoneyGram quickly learned that the customer's allegations were correct at which time Ms. Rustin was given a full refund."

Ruslin said, "I'm just so happy that I called 7 On Your Side to help me with my case with MoneyGram."

Consumer Action's pamphlet how to send money home is available in English and several other languages. It includes information on how to save money sending money home.
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