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Western Union closes 7 branches

Published:Tuesday | July 18, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju

GraceKennedy Money Services has described as a precautionary measure aimed at protecting legitimate customers, its decision to temporarily suspend business operations at seven Western Union branches across the island.

In a bid to clamp down on suspected financial fraud activities, the following locations have been closed: three in Montego Bay, St James; and one each in Falmouth, Trelawny; Lucea, Hanover; Brown's Town, St Ann; and Spanish Town, St Catherine.

This move is aimed at deterring criminals engaged in scamming, Noel Greenland, senior vice-president for marketing and operations at GraceKennedy Money Services, told The Gleaner.

"We have had several conversations over a period of time with Jamaica becoming almost the epicentre for scamming, with Montego Bay for sure being where the centre of activities seem to reside. Over the last couple of months, however, we have seen where some of the scammers are moving away from Montego Bay into other areas, like Spanish Town, like Falmouth, and so on, and carrying with them the scamming approach.

"It has now forced us to enhance our due diligence from a customer standpoint in order to protect our legitimate customers. Bearing in mind that lots of people who have been defrauded are people going about their legitimate business and so we have to provide the kind of information to them to ensure that they are protected as best as possible.

Accepting that the increased safety measures may create delays for some customers they were designed to help, Greenland appealed for understanding, reiterating that the plan is to stop criminal activity.

While unable to put a figure on the amount of money fraudulently channelled through Jamaica's Western Union branches, Greenland said whatever the amount, it is too much.

"Relative to the amount (of money) that comes through Western Union, a very small percentage is considered fraudulent, a very, very small percentage. But whether it is half a per cent, quarter per cent or one per cent, the bottom line is it is too much and we don't want that at all."