FTC hammers Walmart over years of ‘facilitating’ money transfer scams

The Federal Trade Commission is suing Walmart for sitting by while scammers bilked customers out of more than $197 million, the agency alleged in a statement on Tuesday. It’s seeking a court order that would force Walmart to give money back to customers, on top of civil fines.

In a brief response, Walmart described the lawsuit as both “factually flawed and legally baseless.”

Money transfer scams are widespread, and they can involve everything from promises to share an inheritance to lies about a family emergency. They happen just about everywhere, from Zelle, Venmo and Cash App to crypto ATMs and popular dating apps.

In this case, the FTC alleges that Walmart “turned a blind eye to fraud” that went down inside its stores. The retail giant offers money transfer services under in-house brand names, such as Walmart2Walmart. Between 2013 and 2018, the FTC claims that Walmart failed to protect its customers in several ways, including by failing to train its staffers and using “procedures that allowed fraudsters to cash out at its stores,” the agency said.

The lawsuit follows earlier FTC fraud allegations against two of Walmart’s money-transfer partners, MoneyGram and Western Union; both reached hundred-million-dollar settlements with the agency in recent years.