'Dangerous' scams using prepaid cash cards strike Idaho, Wasden says
Jul 09, 2012 (The Idaho Statesman - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Lottery and sweepstakes scams have taken on a new format that sounds safe, but isn't,
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said today that the scams can lead to sustained financial losses.
"These e-mail and telephone scams have been around for years, but now they've taken on a dangerous new twist involving prepaid cash cards," Wasden said.
In previous versions of the scam, potential victims were told they had won a large lottery or sweepstakes prize, but they would have to pay a fee or taxes ito collect the money. Some Idahoans have sent money only to learn that there was no prize and no chance of recovering their money.
Now scammers are saying people do not need to send money to receive the prize. Instead, they are told to buy a prepaid cash card such as the Green Dot MoneyPak card commonly sold at retailers, and then to be ready to send it in upon receipt of the prize. All the "winner" needs to do is notify the con artist of the prepaid card's authorization code to "verify" that the consumer has the card, and then the prize will be sent to the consumer.
The problem is that once the caller has the authorization code, he can collect all of the money on the card. Once the transfer is made, the money is untraceable and cannot be retrieved.
Wasden said an Idaho resident recently lost more than $4,000 to a lottery scam buying eight cards in one day for $500 each at the same location.
"Consumers should never pay money to someone who calls them claiming they have won a prize," he said. "They also should never give a cash card's authorization code to anyone calling them and promising a prize."
Once you have given money to a caller in a sweepstakes scam, the scammers do not go away. Wasden said they will continue to call under a number of guises, including the FBI, IRS and Homeland Security. This practice is known as "reloading."
In a reloading scam, the con artist will tell the victim not to communicate with anyone else, that the caller is conducting a secret investigation, and that the victim is actually in trouble for participating in an illegal lottery and money laundering. The scammer may threaten arrest or garnishment of the victim's wages, Social Security or seizure of the victim's assets and home. The consumer is told to provide additional account or other financial information to enable the scam artist to steal even more money.
The Green Dot Corp. has posted the following warning on its website: "Use your MoneyPak number only with businesses on our approved list. If anyone else asks for your MoneyPak number, it's probably a scam. Don't give your MoneyPak number to pay for something you buy through the classifieds or to collect a prize or sweepstakes. If you give your MoneyPak number to a criminal, Green Dot is not responsible to pay you back."
To avoid these scams, the Attorney General's Office offers these tips:
' Do not respond to phone calls or e-mails saying that you have won a sweepstakes or lottery. Hang up or delete immediately.
' Do not be fooled by generic names, like "American Sweepstakes" or "Gold Rush Sweepstakes." ' Never pay to receive lottery or sweepstakes winnings. ' Never give your MoneyPak number to someone you don't know. Use MoneyPak only with approved businesses.
' Never send money to a caller who claims to be a government agent. If in doubt, hang up and contact the agency.
' If you discover you are a victim, contact your local police immediately.
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