The Sunrise Sunset Saloon in Grosse Pointe Park has been around for almost 24 years.
"It's our little social club. It's just a neighborhood Cheers," said owner Angela Lasher.
Lasher says it's been tough keeping her small business going , which is why she was especially vulnerable , when a scam artist called on March 18.
"At 4:24, a woman calls, she says she's from DTE Energy and they're going to shut off my gas at 5:00," Lasher remembered as she shared the story with Ruth to the Rescue.
Lasher says she panicked because her power had been shut off last year and she lost 4 days of business at the saloon. She begged the caller to avoid a shutoff and asked to speak with a manager. She said a man got on the phone and pressured her more.
According to Lasher he said, "I've got my technician here waiting to see if we can post this money." He then told her to go to a pay center at a local Walgreens and he even stayed on the phone with her. Once she realized the store didn't have a pay center, he suggested she purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak. Lasher said she's never heard of a Green Dot MoneyPak.
What is A Green Dot MoneyPak?
"A green dot card was established for legitimate uses to take people's cash and put into digital currency," said Melanie Duquesnel, the CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
Duquesnel says like money orders or wire transfers scam artists have latched onto Green Dot Moneypaks as a quick easy way to steal your money.
"Once that money is retrieved or picked up its gone!" she told Ruth to the Rescue.
The company that makes the Green Dot MoneyPak also points out it offers different types of cards. The company also offers debit cards that come with the fraud protection that other credit cards offer. A spokesman says usually its the MoneyPak that scam artists will use to make a grab for your cash. Green Dot also says it's committed to educating consumers about fraud. (See statement below) And, the company includes warning on the back of those cards, about how you should protect your personal information when using the cards.
Duquensnel has this warning.
"I don't think there's any legitimate reason that somebody unsolicited by you, you have not engaged that firm, and they call you out of the blue and say put this money on a green dot card and everything's going to be wonderful. That's your hugest red flag to say no thank you."
Ruth to the Rescue's Rules
Here are three things you should always remember, and you should be able to avoid many of the scams that make the rounds.
1) No legitimate business is going to call you and pressure you to pay with Green Dot Moneypak or any other method of payment that's difficult to trace.
2) If someone calls from DTE or any business, get as much information as you can and tell them you will call them back. Then, hang up.
3) Call a number that you know to be valid for that business and see if there really is a problem. Most of the time, there is no problem and you will avoid being scammed.
Lasher was not so lucky, she gave the scammer $500. She shared her story to help others avoid the same problem. As for the scam artists who took her money, she had this to say, "I'd say you know what, you're rotten mean people and you take my hard-earned money and it made me sick!"
Green Dot Statement:
Green Dot is committed to educating consumers about how to avoid becoming victims of financial fraud scams and has partnered with the Consumer Federation of America to help enhance these efforts. Consumers should protect their MoneyPak numbers just as they would cash, and Green Dot makes vigorous efforts to remind consumers on the MoneyPak packaging and website never to give their information to a private individual, to someone claiming you have won a prize or lottery, or to pay for items purchased from classified ads. Consumers are encouraged to immediately report fraudulent activity to Green Dot by calling 1-800-GREENDOT (800-473-3636) so we can attempt to recover any funds that have not already been removed by a scammer and continue working with law enforcement to identify the origin of these activities and end these abuses." -Green Dot Corp.