Is Western Union Safe?

Western Union is a global payment company with 500,000+ agents around the world, as well as digital transfer services. You can send money more or less anywhere with Western Union - but the key question for many customers will always be: is Western Union safe?

Quick Summary

  • Large, safe and established international transfer service

  • Licensed by the Bank Negara Malaysia

  • Account verification and passwords required

  • Anti fraud technology and teams to protect customers

Is Western Union safe?

Yes; Western Union is a safe company to send and receive money from overseas. 

Western Union is licensed and regulated by major global bodies everywhere it trades.

As one of the oldest financial services in the world, they provide a wide variety of money transfer options to more than 200 countries.  

Here are some key facts and figures about Western Union

Established in: 1861

Customer numbers: 150 million

Safety: Publicly traded company, licensed

Security: Western Union uses encryption technology to keep your information safe

Volume of transfers: 34 digital transactions a second + agent services in person

Support: 24-hour customer support

Western Union Payments (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. is licensed by the Bank Negara Malaysia, to carry out remittance business in Malaysia.

Additionally, financial companies like Western Union which offer services in other regions also need to be licensed and regulated according to local laws in the destination country. These include the New York State Department of Financial Services among other US regulatory bodies, FINTRAC in Canada, or AUSTRAC in Australia.

How is Western Union regulated?

Western Union Payments (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. is licensed by the Bank Negara Malaysia, to carry out remittance business in Malaysia. It’s also overseen by other regulatory bodies around the world.

Global regulations and best practices are also in place to keep customers safe when using a money transfer service. For example, under safeguarding rules, if you send a payment to Western Union and it can’t be immediately processed it will usually be deposited in a separate account held by Western Union at a reputable bank. That means it can’t be confused with Western Union’s own operating funds, and can be retrieved in the unlikely event that Western Union runs into financial difficulties.

Is Western Union safer than traditional banks?

Western Union isn’t a bank, but it’s regulated in many of the same ways, making it as safe to use as a traditional bank. The biggest difference when it comes to Western Union versus banks is the way fees and services are structured.

Western Union doesn’t typically hold customer money - it arranges for payments to be transferred, and has a range of security features to make this safe. We’ll cover some specifics about this later. 

Western Union security measures

Western Union has a range of security measures in place to keep customers and their money safe. These include:

  • Verification when you open an account or send a payment with an agent

  • ID verification to collect payments in cash

  • Tracking number (MTCN) verification when you collect a payment

  • Dedicated fraud team checking for suspicious transfers

  • Consumer protection

Is Western Union legit?

If you’re worried that Western Union’s offer may be too good to be true, you can rest easy. 

In fact, Western Union is one of the longest established money transfer services in the world. Their services have been trusted by 150 million customers, sending payments to every corner of the globe. 

As a large business, Western Union is also regulated in many different regions, and has dedicated service teams to help prevent and detect fraudulent activity. This all helps to keep your money safe when you use Western Union services.

Is Western Union safe to transfer money?

Western Union transfer services are safe to use, as long as you follow their guidelines and only send to people you know and trust. 

Payments are processed and delivered to recipients as soon as they’re received, with a broad range of verification, tracking and fraud detection steps along the way.

Is Western Union safe to keep money with?

Western Union doesn’t typically hold customer money - it arranges for payments to be transferred, and depending on the chosen payment method, the money can get to the recipient instantly.

Is Western Union safe for large amounts?

Western Union’s payment limits depend on the destination country and the type of payment. Even high value transfers with Western Union should be safe - but sending a large payment anywhere can be a little nerve wracking. 

Some sensible steps to take can include:

  1. Double check all the information. Check if you've fully completed all of Western Union’s verification steps. If you’re sending to a bank account make sure you have all of the required details. If you’re making a cash collection transfer use the recipient’s full name as on their ID document

  2. You can add a security question. In some countries you can add a security question to transfers being sent for collection, which can add peace of mind

  3. Double check your transfer limits. Check your own bank’s transfer limits if you’ll be funding your payment with a wire

Is your personal data safe on Western Union?

Western Union, including both the digital payment services, and the agent network, has a legal duty to keep your personal data safe. Personal data can be shared in some situations - although consumers may be able to request that information sharing is limited in some cases. 

What personal data does Western Union collect?

Western Union collects some personal data when you create an account, send or receive money. Information is used for practical purposes - like setting up your payment, for marketing, and to comply with legal regulations in Malaysia and abroad.

Financial companies like Western Union are also obliged to hold some data for a period of time - this can be 6 to 10 years and may vary according to the information type. Western Union won’t hold data for longer than is required by law, to complete any ongoing transactions, or resolve any problems which may arise with a payment.

Personal data Western Union may collect can include:

  • Your contact information, for example your name, postal address, e-mail address, telephone number 

  • Personal information like date of birth, gender, citizenship, occupation, and marital status

  • Transaction information

  • Business related information about your account and how you use Western Union services

  • Technical information like your IP address 

  • Compliance information such as identity verification processes, and sanction checks

Can you get scammed on Western Union?

Unfortunately, criminals can try to extract money from victims through Western Union - just as they might through any other financial service provider. 

Companies which offer cash collection payments, like Western Union, can be especially attractive to fraudsters and scammers, because cash payments can be arranged so quickly and are then very hard to trace. Once you realise you’ve been the victim of fraud, your money may have already gone.

Sensible steps you might want to take to stay safe when using Western Union - or any other payment provider - include:

  • If something seems too good to be true - don’t feel under pressure to send a payment quickly if you’re suspicious

  • Learn more about common scam types - they change and evolve over time

  • Check your payment provider’s rules - for example, some services prevent business transactions and should only be used to send money to friends

  • If you’re buying something, maybe avoid paying using a money transfer to an individual

Can I avoid falling victim to fraud?

Western Union shares a lot of great fraud awareness and prevention information for customers. You’ll find up to date details of common Western Union frauds and ways to stay safe online.

If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud through Western Union, call their fraud hotline on 1-800-816-332. You’ll also need to register the case with the local police.

How to get started on Western Union?

To send money with Western Union at an agent location you’ll simply need to call into a local branch with your government issued ID document. Make sure you have the right details depending on how you want your transfer to be received - your recipient’s full name for cash collection, or bank account details for a bank transfer.

If you want to send money online or in the Western Union app, you’ll need to create an account:

  1. Download the Western Union app or open the desktop site

  2. Click Sign up

  3. Enter your personal details, email, and a password

  4. Follow the onscreen prompts to add your information and get verified 

When you set up your account online you’ll be asked to upload a selfie and you also need to provide documents for verification. These can include:

  • Your Malaysian passport

  • Your Malaysian national ID card

  • A Malaysian Police/law enforcement ID

  • Your foreign passport plus your valid visa or residence permit

Conclusion

Western Union is a popular provider thanks to their broad agent network and convenient services. As an authorised and regulated company, Western Union is also a safe way to send and receive international payments.

Western Union is licensed by Bank Negara Malaysia, and other global regulatory bodies around the world as required. You’ll also need to verify your account and create a password, and Western Union’s own anti-fraud teams and technology work 24/7 behind the scenes to keep customers safe.

Visit our home page to compare international money transfer providers’ fees and exchange rate: Find the Best Ways to Transfer Money Overseas

By Seyma Mektepli
Updated 12 August 2022