By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Scammers, schemers and sleazy stealers – they’re all out there and they’re working overtime to come up with ways to get their hands on your money.
Crooks are even going after subway riders who have lost wallets, pocketbooks, iPhones and other valuables on trains.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has issued a reminder to the riding public that there is no fee connected with retrieving lost property.
MTA officials said customers have been complaining to theagency that online searches have directed them to an official-looking “lost property recover” website, which asks for personal information and then uses that information to generate a bill to be paid online by credit card.
The website implies that it contacts the MTA. But the MTA’s lost and found offices do not do business with the website or any other third party company claiming to act on behalf of people who have reported lost items, officials said. The MTA’s lost and found offices return lost items only to people who can identify that they are the rightful owners of the property.
The MTA Police Department has launched a criminal investigation into the website.
And because the website is also soliciting information from taxi and airport customers, the MTA has notified the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The MTA offered advice to riders: Anyone who lost an item on a train or a bus can submit a lost property claim free of charge and directly to the MTA online, by phone or in person.
There is no charge for submitting a lost property claim, MTA officials stressed.
“Anyone looking to submit a claim for lost property needs to go through the MTA’s official website,” MTA Police Chief Michael Coan said. “There is no charge to submit a claim to any of the MTA’s lost and found units.”
The MTA has three locations that serve as repositories for personal items that are left on trains and buses or at stations. The MTA New York City Transit’s Lost Property Unit, located at the 34th Street-Penn Station stop on the A, C and E lines, handles items left on the subway, buses and the Staten Island Railway. The MTA’s Long Island Rail Road has a lost and found office in Penn Station. The MTA Metro-North Railroad maintains a lost and found office at Grand Central Terminal.
In 2013, the MTA’s lost and found offices received 67,320 lost items, and returned 34,572 of them to their owners while fielding more than 73,000 queries about lost items from customers.
Transit riders aren’t the only people who need to be on the lookout for scams.
The so-called “Green Dot MoneyPak” scam is still out there, according to the 68th Precinct Community Council in Bay Ridge, which issued an alert this week urging residents and merchants to be aware of the scheme.
“Sadly, we have to once again remind everyone about ‘Green Dot’ scams that are taking place. Although we have sent materials out prior, people are still being preyed upon and many have become victims,” the organization’s statement read.
The con game works like this: a resident receives a phone call from a person claiming to be from Con Ed, National Grid, the Internal Revenue Service, or another official agency, informing the recipient that they a large sum of money and will have their services cut off that same day unless they pay up – and quick.
The victim is instructed to purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak payment card, which is available at any number of retailers around Brooklyn, and to contact the caller with the card’s PIN number.
Once the crooks have the PIN number, they can steal the money the victim has placed on the card.
“Please remember: Do not ever wire money through a Green Dot (or similar type) of store purchased credit card,” the precinct council warned.
The Green Dot MoneyPak card is a legitimate card used by millions of people every day, according to authorities. But the crooks are using a legitimate card to steal money from unsuspecting victims.
The company that issues the cards posted a statement on its website warning customers not to use the card to pay anyone not on Green Dot’s list of approved companies. The list of companies Green Dot deals with is on the website.
The scammers are also heartless, precinct council leaders said. “The scams come in different forms. Newer versions of the scam has the scammer claiming that a relative of yours is hurt or in the hospital and needs money immediately. They might even have the name of one of your relatives,” Precinct Community Council President Ilene Sacco said in a statement.
The scammers are professionals. “All they do is sit on the phone all day trying to find victims. Many are very convincing. Remember, this is their job,” Sacco stated.