Western Union scam?
March 3, 2012 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Payment with Western Union - is this a scam?

I just purchased a book from Todocolleccion.net - a Spanish Ebay-esque site - for about 35 euros. The seller, who lives in Spain, contacted me and asked for payment by Western Union.

First, is this a scam? I know that Western Union payment is a major red flag, but the transaction otherwise seems legit. The seller has 700+ positive feedback on the site, all from selling used/rare books, mostly in the 30-40 euro range. Should I insist on a different payment method? Paypal?

Second, if this isn't a scam, how exactly do I make this payment? He gave me his NIF number - can I just go to a Western Union office and arrange to send money (in euros) to Spain?
posted by Awkward Philip to Work & Money (8 answers total)
I don't immediately conclude that a request for payment by Western Union is a scam. It seems that Western Union is more popular in other countries than it is in the US, maybe? And more convenient than Paypal or other forms of payment?

I've done business with a MeFite who lives outside the U.S. and he always requests Western Union. If he's got good reviews, I'd be inclined to think it is legit.
posted by jayder at 9:02 AM on March 3, 2012

And yes, you can go to any Western Union office (now usually in convenience stores in the U.S. as opposed to stand-alone businesses) to send money via Western Union. You can also do Western Union transfers via their Web site if I remember correctly.
posted by killdevil at 9:05 AM on March 3, 2012

Seems like the worst thing that could happen is losing 30-40 EUR by never getting the book, but that's going to hold true for pretty much any other payment thingy that's not Paypal.

Western Union is very popular here in Toronto with immigrant communities to send money "back home" -- they've even partnered with one of the big Canadian banks. It's popular for scams because it's a money transfer, not online payment -- when the transfer's done, the money's gone, you can't get it back if you don't get the product. But this doesn't sound like a scam to me.
posted by mendel at 9:09 AM on March 3, 2012

I know that Western Union payment is a major red flag

Only inbound to the US. Outbound, it is often the most convenient form of payment in many countries.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:42 AM on March 3, 2012

Ok, thanks for the reassurance that this is not necessarily a scam. Regarding the second question - can I send this guy money with just his NIF number? Do I need any other info from him? And will it be possible to pay in euros from a US Western Union office?
posted by Awkward Philip at 9:54 AM on March 3, 2012

You pay in dollars, he withdraws in euros.
posted by empath at 10:32 AM on March 3, 2012

A request to be paid by W.U. is okay. An offer to pay *you* for goods with W.U. is often a scam.
posted by theora55 at 11:43 AM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

The only red flag I would worry about on an outbound transaction is if he asks you to pay more, and then he'll somehow get you the "change." As in, "This item is $1. How about if you Western Union me $100, and I will send you a check for $99!"

It sounds idiotically obvious, but people still fall for it.
posted by ErikaB at 9:20 PM on March 3, 2012

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