The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.
Green Dot MoneyPak Cards
In recent years, prepaid debit cards have become an increasingly common payment method among consumers. “Green Dot” cards are a particularly popular type of prepaid debit card. Prepaid debit cards offer a convenient alternative for those wishing to minimize their interactions with credit card companies and banking institutions.
The growing popularity of Green Dot debit cards, however, has led to an increase in Green Dot-related scams. Specifically, con artists trick victims into sending the PIN numbers located on the back of Green Dot “MoneyPak” cards. This is the equivalent of wiring money or sending cash – it is untraceable, and you can’t get your money back!
This Consumer Alert describes some common ways criminals trick victims and provides simple rules to follow to help you keep your hard-earned money in your own pocket – where it belongs.
Scams involving Green Dot MoneyPak cards will continue to change and are limited only by criminals’ imaginations. The following are common scams now featuring a Green Dot MoneyPak payment twist:
Advance Payment Scams
These scams come in many varieties and are identified by the need to pay money to get money. The following three common variations can be avoided by remembering that you should not have to pay money to claim something you won or to obtain a loan.
- Grants: You receive a check for a few hundred or even a thousand dollars with a communication congratulating you for being awarded a $10,000 grant from Green Dot. The instructions indicate that to collect the rest of your “grant,” you must pay commissions by depositing the check, purchasing MoneyPak cards for the amount of the check, and sending your contact the numbers for MoneyPak purchases. The check is fake, but the money you used to purchase the MoneyPak cards is real. The grant never comes through; the legitimate company did not authorize the grant and will not reimburse you for your loss. You owe the bank the full amount of the check.
- Loans: A “lender” informs you that you are pre-approved to apply for a personal loan. Before you get the money, you need to show your ability to repay the loan by making the first two payments. You are instructed to buy a MoneyPak to cover the first two payments and give the “lender” your MoneyPak numbers. The loan never comes through, and the “lender” cannot be traced.
- Lotteries or Sweepstakes: You enter lots of lotteries and sweepstakes, and you finally get a notice that you won! To collect your winnings, you have to pay fees or taxes – right away. Rather than sending a check or wiring the fees and taxes (also both bad ideas), you are instructed to buy a MoneyPak for the identified amount and simply send the numbers. You pay the amount, but you never get your money. You will be placed on a “suckers” list and receive more bogus offers.
An ad for goods or services requires payment using MoneyPak. You provide the requested numbers or receipt information, but the goods or services do not result. The seller is unreachable.
FBI or Other Law Enforcement Internet Scams
While surfing the Internet, your screen locks up with a message pretending to be from the FBI or another law enforcement agency. The message states that there has been a violation of law punishable by fines and penalties and directs you to pay them using a MoneyPak immediately or criminal charges will be filed and your computer will remain locked. You follow the instructions and pay using a MoneyPak. Your computer may or may not remain locked.
You get an urgent call or email from someone who claims to be a relative, friend, law enforcement officer, medical provider, government employee, or any other individual likely to get your attention. The convincing imposter claims to need the money to help your relative or friend who is traveling in another country. The imposter says the best way to help is to purchase a MoneyPak and give them the numbers.
You have been applying for many jobs, and you finally get an offer. The company wants you to send money in advance to pay for a background check, uniform, or equipment. You are instructed to purchase MoneyPak cards to pay, and you provide the required numbers, but the job never materializes.
You have been communicating with someone, and things start getting serious. You feel good about the relationship, and your significant other tells you that he or she needs money by way of a MoneyPak card to visit you, to move for a new job, or some other “legitimate” expense. You send the money, and either you do not hear from that person again, or you hear more about other urgent needs.
A caller claims to be from a utility provider, and the caller-ID verifies the source of the call. The caller threatens customers with disconnecting service to their home or business if they fail to make an immediate payment using a MoneyPak card. The caller-ID is falsified, and any payments made will not go to the utility provider and cannot be traced. If you receive a suspicious call that claims to be from a utility provider, end the call and contact the utility provider at the number listed on your bill. Michigan utilities have a variety of payment options available for customers, including the ability to pay over a secure Internet site; by U.S. mail; in person at an authorized pay agent location; or by Visa, MasterCard, or an eCheck using an authorized utility agent.
Tips for Avoiding Green Dot MoneyPak Card Scams
The following tips can help you avoid falling victim to a MoneyPak scam:
- Treat the money stored on your MoneyPak card the same way you would treat cash in your wallet.
- 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, eBay, or other online merchants, transfer the money to your account before you pay the merchant. Don’t email your MoneyPak number directly to any merchant.
Remember: Green Dot is not responsible for the quality or non-receipt of any goods or services you buy using your MoneyPak.
Tips for Victims of Green Dot MoneyPak Card Scams
If you are the victim of a MoneyPak scam, try the following options to obtain restitution:
- If the scam was perpetrated by a con artist posing as a utility company representative, contact the utility company directly and describe what happened.
- Contact your local police department.
- File a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. You can also call 877-765-8388 to speak to a Complaint Specialist or submit a claim by surface mail to the following address: Consumer Protection Division, P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909.
- Report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 877-382-4357.
- Alert Green Dot by calling 866-795-7597.