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Police warn of scam using pre-paid cards

Published 11:12 am, Monday, September 23, 2013
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MILFORD -- If someone calls and claims to be from, let's say, a utility company or a government agency and wants you to send money using pre-paid cards, what should you do?

City police are investigating two recent incidents involving Green Dot Money Pack cards, one from a caller who claimed to be from the IRS and another from a man who said he worked for United Illuminating Co. and needed an outstanding balance paid immediately.

Legitimate businesses don't operate that way, said Officer Jeff Nielsen, the department spokesman. "Once the scammer gets the numbers from the back of the card, they can use it to reload the funds onto a prepaid Green Dot Visa or Mastercard, add money to a PayPal account without using a bank account or make same-day payments to major companies,'' Nielsen said.

A Milford woman was bilked out of $2,000 on Sept. 16 and on Friday a local business owner lost $800 in the scam when a caller claiming to be from UI said the company was switching meters and needed the customer's balance settled immediately.

Green Dot cards are sold in several local stores and police are asking merchants to monitor their sales of the cards and to report anything suspicious, Nielsen said.

Anyone receiving such calls should notify police, he said. Before sending money, always check with the agency the caller claims to be from, using a phone number or e-mail address from the agency's web site or a telephone directory.

The woman in the first case became suspicious after giving access to half the $4,000 demanded by a man who called himself "Marshall from the IRS.'' He told the woman that if she didn't pay the purported tax bill within 30 minutes she would be arrested, Nielsen said.

The business owner was called by a man who said he was "Mike Lopez'' from UI, who told the business owner that the utility was changing electrical meters and that the business needed to pay off its bill or the power would be cut off.

The scam works by having victims purchase the Green Dot Money Pack cards, load the money on them and call back with the transaction number on the rear of the card, Nielsen said. That number gives access to the funds on the card without the card itself, police said.

Green Dot has a fraud reporting number to contact, (800) GREEN DOT and the company web site, www.greendot.com has information on how to avoid common scams.

The site says that cardholders have access to more than 20,000 ATMs and that the reloadable card may be used as cash wherever Mastercard or Visa debit cards are accepted.