The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.
In recent years, prepaid debit cards have become an increasingly common payment method among consumers. “Green Dot” cards are a particularly popular type of prepaid debit card. Prepaid debit cards offer a convenient alternative for those wishing to minimize their interactions with credit card companies and banking institutions.
The growing popularity of Green Dot debit cards, however, has led to an increase in Green Dot-related scams. Specifically, con artists trick victims into sending the PIN numbers located on the back of Green Dot “MoneyPak” cards. This is the equivalent of wiring money or sending cash – it is untraceable, and you can’t get your money back!
This Consumer Alert describes some common ways criminals trick victims and provides simple rules to follow to help you keep your hard-earned money in your own pocket – where it belongs.
Scams involving Green Dot MoneyPak cards will continue to change and are limited only by criminals’ imaginations. The following are common scams now featuring a Green Dot MoneyPak payment twist:
These scams come in many varieties and are identified by the need to pay money to get money. The following three common variations can be avoided by remembering that you should not have to pay money to claim something you won or to obtain a loan.
An ad for goods or services requires payment using MoneyPak. You provide the requested numbers or receipt information, but the goods or services do not result. The seller is unreachable.
While surfing the Internet, your screen locks up with a message pretending to be from the FBI or another law enforcement agency. The message states that there has been a violation of law punishable by fines and penalties and directs you to pay them using a MoneyPak immediately or criminal charges will be filed and your computer will remain locked. You follow the instructions and pay using a MoneyPak. Your computer may or may not remain locked.
You get an urgent call or email from someone who claims to be a relative, friend, law enforcement officer, medical provider, government employee, or any other individual likely to get your attention. The convincing imposter claims to need the money to help your relative or friend who is traveling in another country. The imposter says the best way to help is to purchase a MoneyPak and give them the numbers.
You have been applying for many jobs, and you finally get an offer. The company wants you to send money in advance to pay for a background check, uniform, or equipment. You are instructed to purchase MoneyPak cards to pay, and you provide the required numbers, but the job never materializes.
You have been communicating with someone, and things start getting serious. You feel good about the relationship, and your significant other tells you that he or she needs money by way of a MoneyPak card to visit you, to move for a new job, or some other “legitimate” expense. You send the money, and either you do not hear from that person again, or you hear more about other urgent needs.
A caller claims to be from a utility provider, and the caller-ID verifies the source of the call. The caller threatens customers with disconnecting service to their home or business if they fail to make an immediate payment using a MoneyPak card. The caller-ID is falsified, and any payments made will not go to the utility provider and cannot be traced. If you receive a suspicious call that claims to be from a utility provider, end the call and contact the utility provider at the number listed on your bill. Michigan utilities have a variety of payment options available for customers, including the ability to pay over a secure Internet site; by U.S. mail; in person at an authorized pay agent location; or by Visa, MasterCard, or an eCheck using an authorized utility agent.
The following tips can help you avoid falling victim to a MoneyPak scam:
Remember: Green Dot is not responsible for the quality or non-receipt of any goods or services you buy using your MoneyPak.
If you are the victim of a MoneyPak scam, try the following options to obtain restitution: