There’s something new sweeping the nation, and unfortunately it’s not a hot dance move. The Green Dot MoneyPak scam is making headlines from coast to coast and bilking victims out of thousands dollars.
What is Green Dot MoneyPak?
In case you haven’t heard of it, the Green Dot MoneyPak is a prepaid card usually used by people who don’t have bank accounts. The cards are available at retail stores like Walmart and CVS for $4.95. They can be loaded with up to $500 at most retailers or $1,000 if used at Walmart, and then used to shop online or to add money to a PayPal account.
How the scam works
Prepaid card scams aren’t anything new, but this is the latest: A fraudster calls and pretends to be a representative from a utility company or an agent from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The victim is told that he’s in default for a debt and must pay immediately to avoid having his heat shut off, or, in some cases, to avoid deportation. The victim is then told to buy a Green Dot MoneyPak card (usually at Walmart), load it with a specific amount of cash, and transfer the serial number to the swindler who then transfers the money to another card.
Scam artists are big fans of the Green Dot MoneyPak card because it isn’t linked to a bank account and just like cash, it’s untraceable. Unlike cash, though, the transaction can be done over the phone, so it’s totally anonymous, making it just about impossible to catch the criminal. Also, the card offers no consumer protection from fraud, so the victim isn’t getting her money back.
How to spot a scam
We all think we’re scam-savvy, but occasionally a a fraudster gets past our defenses. Now that you know about the Green Dot MoneyPak scam, you’re not likely to fall prey to it, but there’s a new scam lurking around every corner, waiting to pounce. Here’s how to stay safe:
- Never give personal information to a stranger.
- Be wary of anyone who calls on the phone trying to collect a debt. Look up the phone number of the organization the caller claims to represent (not the number on the caller ID) and check on your account.
- Call local police and ask whether residents have reported suspicious phone calls. You might also inquire about door-to-door collectors or salespeople.
- Keep in mind that many organizations don’t accept payment via prepaid card. Be wary of anyone who’s asking for this type of payment.
- Green Dot Corporation has its own tips for how to avoid fraud, and they discourage consumers from ever handing over a prepaid card number to anyone.
- Seniors are considered easy prey to fraudsters, so help keep your parents, grandparents, or other elders safe by informing them about the latest scams. Also, NerdWallet offers some general suggestions for fraud and identity theft protection.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
If you believe you’ve been the victim of a Green Dot MoneyPak scam, call your local police department immediately. Green Dot Corporation encourages you to report the crime to its company either online or by phone, and asks that you have your Green Dot MoneyPak card number and receipt for a reference. The company is very clear, though, that it will not offer a refund when victims have shared the card number with a criminal. You might also consider contacting CrimeStoppers USA at 1-800-222-TIPS. Last but not least, tell everyone you know. When it comes to scams, word spreads faster than photos of wet kittens on Facebook, and you might prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
Street image via Shutterstock