It’s a safe rule of thumb that any new way to pay for things is a new route into your wallet for fraudsters and con artists. The latest is a variant that involves reloadable Green Dot cash cards. This new scam has already caught local victims in its net, according to the Santa Clara Police Department.
First, you get a phone call from someone saying he’s from Silicon Valley Power, or any other public agency or utility that you could reasonably owe money to. Then he tells you that your account is overdue and will be disconnected immediately; or you have an outstanding traffic ticket and a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
Regardless of the angle, you’ll be told that the best way to avoid these unhappy consequences is to buy a Green Dot cash card, load it with money, and call back with the unique 14-digit access code on the back of the card. Then – presto! – your money disappears.
The beauty of cash cards is that, unlike credit cards, the transactions are virtually untraceable – and the money, unrecoverable.
You can buy cash cards anonymously at the checkout at many retail stores. Transactions only use the access code – saving fraudsters the trouble of stealing account information, or setting up phony business accounts.
Fraudsters simply use the access number to download the value of a cash card anywhere in the world – making the cards a currency-of-choice for money-launderers, drug-dealers and arms smugglers as well as garden-variety con artists, according to a recent report in the New York Times.
Any request for a reloadable cash card number, information from your receipt, or to transfer the reloadable cash card to a PayPal.com account it is almost always fraudulent, says SCPD.
Don’t use reloadable cash cards to pay for purchases via classifieds, Craigslist, or to collect a prize – requirements to do so are almost always scams. No legitimate business ever asks for this kind of payment, say the police.
If you get a call like this, hang up and call the customer service number on your bill. To report fraud attempts, contact the Santa Clara Police Department at 408-615-4700.