Western Union is a well-established United States-based financial services company with more than 300 years of corporate history. It operates across the globe and its credentials are beyond question.
However, some of its partners in the Philippines appear to be far from honest, reliable and trustworthy.
On Sept. 20, Christopher Bongabo and his mother spoke at radio station DZRH about their dashed hopes of finding a resolution to their big problem – the loss of US$5,000 (215,000 pesos) that the former sent from Micronesia where he works to his mother via a Western Union branch in the Philippines.
Unable to get a satisfactory explanation from the concerned Western Union branch even after they were accompanied by trade department officials, mother and son went back to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which they approached earlier.
But poor mother and son!
They were told by NBI staff that the country’s premier crime-fighting agency may not be able to help them anytime soon because complaints against losses of remittances via Western Union outlets in the Philippines are already piling up at their office. They admitted failing to capture any culprit even after they have gathered photos of suspects, courtesy of closed circuit cameras in some Western Union outlets.
Aghast by what he heard from the victims, DZRH main anchor Joe Taruc wondered if staff of certain Western Union outlets in the Philippines have formed a criminal syndicate to victimize overseas Filipinos who are sending large amounts of money to their loved ones back home. Staff of a Western Union outlet which received a large amount of remittance from an OFW are possibly passing on details about large remittances to their accomplices in other Western Union outlets, he said.
If no one at a Western Union outlet is passing on information about large remittances to outside parties, how will those large remittances be collected or withdrawn by third parties if the latter were not given key pieces of information, such as the remittance reference number, name of remitter and name of a family member designated to collect the remittance?
Taruc said OFWs should play it safe by sending money to their loved ones in the Philippines via Philippine banking institutions, which have sound security checks, while problems persist in the operations of Western Union’s partners in the Philippines.
“Losing US$5,000 to robbers and not seeing much hope of recovery are very, very painful for me and my mother. I hope other overseas Pinoys will learn important lessons from my sad experience,” said Bongabo.
Victims of shoddy service providers should consider taking other actions other than filing complaints with the Philippine police and other law enforcement agencies.
If these service providers refuse to take responsibility for shortcomings or failings of their staff and their overall operations, one of the best ways, in my view, of dealing with them is to hit them where it hurts most — their revenue or sales.
A victim, like Bongabo and his mother, should go to different print and electronic media in Manila, identify the Western Union service branch where they lost their money and tell everyone how they lost their money and how that Western Union branch’s management refused to help them.
If many people get to know about losses of large remittances in that particular Western Union branch, I’m sure OFWs and their families won’t use that company’s operations. This will mean drop in sales or revenue for that outlet. Sustained drop in sales is something that it’s owner will want to avoid — and possibly prompt him or her to forge a settlement with a disgruntled client, like Bongabo.