By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The infamous “Green Dot MoneyPak Scam” is back, according to Bay Ridge officials.
The con game in which crooks pose as IRS agents to steal money from unsuspecting residents is still victimizing local residents, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said.
Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) is one of the elected officials warning residents to beware of the scam and to report any effort to steal money to police immediately.
“It is unfortunate that constituents continue to be afflicted by phone scams like the Green Dot scam, which are costing unwitting residents hundreds and even thousands of dollars,” she said.
Here’s how the scam works: a perpetrator calls a victim claiming to be a representative of a government agency or a local utility company (such as the IRS, Verizon, Time Warner and others) and demands payment from the victim for an overdue bill and if payment is not made immediately, additional fines or penalties will be assessed. If the perpetrator claims to be from the IRS, they sometimes tell the victim they owe taxes and if they pay, no one will be arrested. If the perpetrator claims to be from a utility company, they sometimes tell the victim their payment is past due and threaten to turn services off immediately.
There have also been calls made regarding an injured family member who needs payment for medical treatment, or an immigrant who risks deportation without payment of a fine.
The scammer instructs the victim that a payment can be made over the phone using a Green Dot MoneyPak card.
Originally reported in February, the scam persists. Residents across southern Brooklyn continue to report incidents of the Green Dot MoneyPak Scam, Malliotakis said.
“These scammers continue to prey on the elderly and homebound, which makes their impact even more detrimental. Fortunately, the NYPD continues to investigate the issue and I strongly encourage anyone who receives a call which fits the profile to notify the authorities before they complete any transactions,” Malliotakis said.
Making matters worse is that the sophisticated scammers use computer apps that can override caller ID with whatever number they program into it. If they are pretending to call you from Verizon and they have this app, your caller ID will read Verizon. If they are pretending to call you from the IRS, your caller ID will read IRS.
The victim goes to a local store and purchases a Green Dot card for the pre-arranged amount, calls the perpetrator back, and provides the perpetrator with the card number and PIN number from the card. The perpetrator then uses the information to remove the money from the Green Dot card, defrauding the victim, and the scam is complete.
The crooks are clever, according to Malliotakis, who said there have been instances where perpetrators have told people that if they do not pay, a warrant will be issued for their arrest or they will be deported. They have also told victims that they will have the local precinct call back to verify. An accomplice then calls back and the caller ID will read either NYPD or the local precinct, along with the precinct’s telephone number.
Some businesses have caught on to the scheme, and are doing their best to educate consumers of the risks by asking card purchasers if they intend to use it for payment regarding the aforementioned reasons.
Bob Howe, president of the Merchants of Third Avenue, sent an email blast to the group’s members, more than 200 store owners, to warn them to be on alert for the scam.
“Thankfully, we have a pretty active 68th Precinct and a pretty active merchant group, so when we sent out the warning, it did have a pretty good effect,” Howe told the Brooklyn Eagle.
But Howe said it’s easy to fall for the scam. “We’re all busy business people. These con artists are at the top of their game. They really do sound authentic. If you are a merchant and you have someone telling you they’re going to cut off your electricity or take out your meter, you tend to believe it. Besides, these kinds of threats aren’t unknown to merchants. We have seen this done to us by city agencies.”
“The store-owners who sell these cards can be a tremendous asset in fighting this scam,” Malliotakis said. “If a senior citizen approaches the counter with a payment card, it might be helpful to advise them of the scam. The goodwill generated by rescuing someone from being defrauded has much more value than the profit earned on selling the card.”
If a resident receives such a call, they should call to their local precinct, Malliotkais said.
The company that owns Green Dot MoneyPak cards is not involved in the scam, according to officials.