Urges residents to beware of the Green Dot MoneyPak scam
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The crooks behind the Green Dot MoneyPak scam are pros that could make even the most cynical citizen fall for their tricks, a police commander in Bay Ridge warned.
Dep. Insp. Richard DiBlasio, commanding officer of the 68th Precinct issued an alert to thousands of residents on the e-mail notification list of the 68th Precinct Community Council urging people to be on their guard against the scammers.
“Remember for most of these scammers, this is their job. They sit and call people all day seeing who will fall for their tricks,” DiBlasio wrote.
Police said the scam works like this: a crook posing as a debt collector calls a victim on the phone and tells the person they owe money to Con Edison or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and that if they don’t pay up immediately, their electricity will be turned off, or worse, that a warrant will be issued for their arrest.
The scammers instruct the victim to go to a store and purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak card and load the card with the cash they supposedly owe. The scammer also tells the victim to scratch off the back of the card and call with the secret PIN number listed there. Green Dot MoneyPak cards are not linked to bank accounts. What this means is that anyone you share your card number with has instant access to your cash and can siphon money from the card.
Green Dot MoneyPak cards are legitimate, reloadable debit cards and are available in many stores. Residents who don’t have bank accounts often use them to pay phone, cable, or credit card bills.
The Staten Island Advance reported in December that crooks like using the Green Dot MoneyPak cards for the scam because the cards are more convenient than a money wire and untraceable. Once the scammers have a MoneyPak serial number, they are able to transfer funds onto a prepaid debit card, the Advance reported.
“Phone scams, like the 'Green Dot' scam, can cost unwitting residents hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, these scammers often prey on the elderly and homebound, which makes their impact even more detrimental. I strongly encourage anyone who receives a call which fits the profile to notify the authorities before they complete any transactions,” Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said.
Con Edison has an ongoing campaign to educate its customers, according to John Banks, vice president of governmental relations.
“Through media appeals, our customer contact people, billing notices, social media, and working with government officials like Assemblywoman Malliotakis, we take every opportunity to keep people vigilant,” Banks said. “Be alert if a telephone caller asks you to arrange for any pre-paid debit card as payment for your bill, or to send money to an out-of-state address. Never arrange payment or divulge account or personal information, including debit or credit card information, over the telephone, unless you are certain you are speaking to a Con Edison representative."
DiBlasio said that a public awareness campaign has helped save some people from becoming victims. The precinct and local elected officials have distributed informational fliers and posters to warn residents about the scam. “Several attempts to scam local residents and merchants have been thwarted because of the mass distribution of information regarding this particular scam,” he wrote.
But the crooks are clever, according to DiBlasio. “They are now using computer apps that override caller ID with whatever number they program into it. In other words: if they are pretending to call you from Con Ed, and they have this app, your caller ID will read Con Ed! If they are pretending to call you from the IRS, your caller ID will read IRS, and so on,” DiBlasio wrote.
Don’t fall for the scam, DiBlasio said. “Remember, the NYPD does not solicit money or issue warrants for things such as the ones just enumerated,” DiBlasio wrote in his email.