In recent months, Ruth to the Rescue has showed you how scammers have been using Green Dot MoneyPaks as a way to get their hands on your money. Of course, the cards are designed for legitimate uses, but because the money transfers were impossible to track the cards quickly became a favorite method of scammers looking to make a quick buck.
Green Dot is making some changes, and that could help people avoid the troubles that impacted two women who spoke to Ruth to the Rescue earlier this year. Someone called businesswoman Angela Lasher a few months ago, pretending to be from DTE, demanding $500. It was a high-pressure scam.
"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," Angela Lasher told Ruth to the Rescue back in March.
Just days later, a Canton woman revealed she's also been a victim. Someone called her pretending to be with the IRS and claiming she owed the agency $4,900. Because she'd had some legitimate dealings with the Internal Revenue Service in the past, she was vulnerable. She says the person's threats on the phone were very convincing.
"You think that the guys are going to show up at your front door with handcuffs and take you away," she told Ruth to the Rescue.
Green Dot, Red Flag
Both women were directed to pay their alleged debts with Green Dot MoneyPaks. Like wire transfers, the payments cannot be traced and once someone takes that money its gone. Many scam artists used to rely on wire transfers, money orders or cash, but Ruth to the Rescue noticed more and more crooks were using the MoneyPak.
The Green Dot Corp. recognized consumers might need some extra protection. A company statement said, "While scams involving MoneyPak make up only a tiny percentage of the volume transacted through MoneyPak, the potential financial harm against any one victim is not worth the risk." The company's CEO told Congress it was taking action to make the fraud more difficult to pull off.
The company announced it would be phasing the MoneyPak card out of retailers, and all of them would be gone in the first quarter of 2015. Instead, it will conduct reload transactions via a "swipe at the register" method. The change would no longer allow scam artists to access someone's money remotely,
but using the MoneyPak and the PIN. The MoneyPak has already been removed from Walmart and some other stores.
The change could help prevent more people from having the regrets our two victims have. "It makes you feel so vulnerable... so stupid," said the Canton woman who lost $4,900.
Words of Warning
Even as Green Dot takes this action, remember con artists will find new ways to get you to send them money. It's critical that you remember these guidelines:
1) Legitimate organizations rarely call you demanding immediate payment over the phone. You should treat unexpected calls very, very carefully.
2) If someone calls, never make a payment during that initial call. Instead, take down the information and hang up.
3) Verify any claims about debts, fines, or any payments by calling a number you know is legitimate to make sure it's the real deal.
Just remembering those three guidelines should be enough to help you avoid making a payment that will make a con artist very happy, and leave you feeling tricked.