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I live in France and I have been sharing a student accomodation with somebody from Morocco for nearly 1 year. The guy is pretty nice, and I had no problem with him so far but two days ago, he asked me a strange request.

He would like to send 500€ to his dad in Morocco, but he told me that because he is a foreign student, he cannot create an account on Western Union (is it true?). So now, he is asking me to create an account on Western Union, and I am supposed to send the 500€ directly on his father account. He also told me that he can give me the money in cash or by bank transfert (I'd prefer cash I think).

I would rather trust and help him, but I would like to make sure I don't risk anything. So I have two questions:

1) why can't he create an account? I tried to look on the WU website, and I can't find anything concerning foreign students

2) if he gives me first the money in cash, do I risk anything if I send the money for him? Is there any precaution I can take to protect myself against any court action against me if it appears to be an illegal action, like money-laundering? For example, if I take a picture of it's ID, and/or a letter saying "I'm asking to XXX to do a bank transfert for me", can it be "safer" for me? (if it matters, I live in France)

-- EDIT --

To answer to RonJohn's comment (thanks for your answer):

  1. yes, he is supposed to study in the school that is 100m away, and I think it's true (I had the year before another flat mate in the same situation). He told me 4 days ago that he was planning to stay next year as well. Any idea if he is supposed to be able to create this account or not?
  2. if I ask for a bank transfer, can it still be a money laundering scheme?
  3. I'm not sure to follow that part. You mean he could be honest for the first transaction, and dishonest in next transactions that could eventually happen? What kind of scam is possible with "other electronic means"? Bank transfer is not safe?
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    A question and a couple of comments. #1 Is he also a student? #2 You can't revoke cash, but it might be part of a money laundering scheme. #3 If it's for money laundering or a standard scam, this "with cash" operation might be to "soften you up, demonstrate trustworthiness" and then they'll use other electronic means later. – RonJohn Jul 1 at 20:30
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    Thus, I'd think of a polite way to say no, and stay out of it. – RonJohn Jul 1 at 20:31
  • @RonJohn Thanks for your answer. See me edit that answers your questions. – tobiasBora Jul 1 at 20:40
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    Ok thanks you all. Now, I'm just wondered about this impossibility for foreign students, if you have more info! – tobiasBora Jul 1 at 22:33
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    Do you know the source of the money? Does s/he have a job to justify its origin? The issue could be that the source of the money is illegal(e.g. drug trade) or questionable (his visa does not allow him to work but he is working and getting paid under the table) and s/he does not want that money linked to his name in case someone begins asking questions. – SJuan76 Jul 2 at 10:56
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Your roommate's story is illogical and smells fishy. Perhaps you have already noticed that something is quite not right.

Here is the heuristic to confirm your alert:

  1. Western Union(WU) can be a nuisance for some people. But why use WU? See 2.
  2. There are services with a better exchange rate compare to WU like transferwise, XE money.
  3. Anyone can open a local bank account with valid ID to use services of no. 2
  4. Every penny counts in exchange rates and fees for people in poorer nations
  5. Using services stated in 2., money can be transferred and cleared into a local Morrocco bank account.
  6. Why is his dad using a Western Union account rather than a Moroccan bank account?

(Long explanation) Western Union(WU) fees are known to be outrageous, and no sane person would use it to send money. I don't know how a person having a problem opening a simple bank account. To make sure foreign students are not abusing their studying visa, every country requires students to open a local bank account and put money there as a guarantee for daily spending activities. Additionally, there are lower-rate money transfer services such as Transferwise, XE, etc. Bear in mind that, Morocco is NOT a backward country, so someone can use the mentioned services to transfer the money using a local bank account.

In fact, WU really doesn't ask much for one to open an "account". One reason someone using WU is fishy is that ANYONE can withdraw the money from any place in the world if they have the withdrawal pin code. This is why some commenters have spelled out possible money laundering/relationship or investment sink scam. In that type of situation, you would be lucky if it is just a simple scheme from some Nigerian prince. The last things you want to get involved with is an international money laundering scheme where the money ends up in Iraq, Syria, etc.

A relationship or invest scheme always start hoking the victim with initial monetary request and use sunk cost mentality to continue to siphon the victim. I.e., because of the initial 500€ of "sunk cost", a subsequent request of another 200€, 300€, etc with promises to pay back of the full sum when they get money from some lucrative gigs will definitely hook you up.

A more polite way is showing your "roommate" with services like Transferwise, XE and see how he reacts. You are free to update this question and tell us what kind of excuses he gives for being "unable to use those services". Another bold way to test your roommate if you have free money to spare, e.g. 100€, you can tell him that you are running short on cash but can do 100€ and see whether or not he can pay you the 100€ back immediately.

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    Downvoted for "no sane person will use it to send money." WU is used to send money especially when to/from developing countries (think Asia and Africa) all the time, so while I agree its not the best option by far, making assumptions about people that want to use it is off. The second half of the last paragraph is more than bold; it can create long-standing trouble in their relationships long term. – Leon Jul 2 at 9:22
  • @Leon WU and banks are known to be hit hard by those peers type money transfer services, basically, most migrant countries are covered. For the second part, consider in life, some relationship will turn toxic (think of domestic violence). – mootmoot Jul 2 at 10:06
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    Covered or not, its still fairly widespread to use WU to send/receive money in migrant countries. OP doesnt have to force a sour relationship through if they re only just suspecting foul play at this stage. – Leon Jul 2 at 10:22
  • @Leon Well, we can wait and see whether OP response – mootmoot Jul 2 at 12:49
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    Thanks everybody for all the advices. For now my room mate didn't came back to me, so I'll wait and ask him more questions, and give the advice of transferwise/XE money. I'll let you know if I have some updates, thanks! – tobiasBora Jul 2 at 16:22

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