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BBB warns about prepaid money card scams

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Better Business Bureau warned consumers Tuesday about two new scams in the fraudsters' arsenal are being used to trick people out of their money. Both involve prepaid money cards.

The first scam targets utility customers, according to BBB.  Individuals and businesses receive phone calls about their electricity being turned off within hours if they didn't pay right away using a prepaid money card.  

Karen Nalven, President of BBB serving west Florida, said that these scammers might target cable and natural gas customers as well.

"That's why it is important to increase awareness about payment scams in general so that customers understand the red flags and know what to do," added Nalven.

To avoid being victimized by the scammers, BBB recommended:

  • Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.
  • Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who calls or emails you.
  • Never wire money or provide debit or credit card numbers to someone you do not know.
  • Call the number on your utility company bill to find out if there is a problem with your account.

Duke Energy payments manager Tom Cunningham said, the company never contacted its customers to demand a prepaid card payment to avoid immediate service disconnection.  He said they received over 80 reports of people contacted by these scammers.

The second scam involves the Green Dot MoneyPak Prepaid Card, according to BBB and Green Dot.

A Green Dot spokesperson said, fraudsters have called or emailed people telling them about a lottery prize or a deeply discounted product they could purchase on a website, but only if they used MoneyPak as a payment method.  The scammers would ask for the MoneyPak 14-digit code. 

"Once you have given them that code – the crooks can then transfer your MoneyPak funds to their own prepaid cards," the Green Dot spokesperson said.

The MoneyPak had these safety tips for consumers:

  • Never give your MoneyPak number to someone you don't know.
  • Never give receipt information about your MoneyPak purchase to another party.
  • Use your MoneyPak only to reload your prepaid cards or accounts you control.
  • Refuse any offer that asks you to buy a MoneyPak and share the number or receipt information by email or phone.
  • To use your MoneyPak with PayPal or eBay or other online merchants, transfer the money to your PayPal account before you pay the merchant. Don't email your MoneyPak number directly to any merchant.
  • Don't use the MoneyPak to pay taxes or fees to claim "winnings" on a foreign lottery or prize promotion. Unless it's an approved MoneyPak partner, don't use MoneyPak for any offer that requires you to pay before you get the item.
  • Check this list of approved MoneyPak partners before you use your MoneyPak to pay.
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