MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Scammers around the world used MoneyGram as a way to get a hold of their victims' money. The scammers and the wire service both made a fortune -- until the feds stepped in.
"One morning I answered the phone and this young fella said 'hi Grandma,'" Wanda Wood said.
Wood says the voice sounded like that of her grandson, Matt. She became concerned when he said he was in Canada and needed help -- $4,500 wired to him immediately.
"I really and truly thought it was Matt. The kid sounded like him," Wood said.
Wood wired the money via MoneyGram, but con artists intercepted it, along with funds sent by hundreds of others who were targeted in the scheme.
"I was really disappointed. There I was out of $4,500," Wood said.
The Justice Department found MoneyGram in violation of processing thousands of transactions for individuals known to be involved in scams.
"The corrupt agents converted the money transfers to cash in a manner that maintained the anonymity of fraudsters," U.S. Postal Inspector Nick Alicea said.
MoneyGram profited from the scheme by collecting fees and other revenues on the fraudulent transactions.
Schemes included the "Grandparent Scam" that lured in Wood, as well as "Secret Shopper" scams and sweepstakes or lottery scams.
Don Golden's mother lost $60,000, and came close to losing her home.
"She decided that she didn`t have the money to pay her school taxes because she was putting all of her money in this sweepstakes activity," Golden said.
MoneyGram has agreed to pay $100 million for its role in the scam between 2004 and 2009.
"This in my mind is a milestone day because we are seeing some justice for my mother and my family," Golden said.
Postal Inspectors will distribute $46 to almost 18,000 victims or family members of scam victims across the country.
Victims are grateful, but for many, their experience has taken its toll.
"It will never give back what I`ve been through. Because it tore my world apart. It really did," Karen Luther said.
Anyone who believes they may have been victimized by the MoneyGram scheme is urged to visit Justice.gov for instructions on how to file a request to get your money back.