At least one Bladen County couple has found out exactly how devastating a financial scam can be, and local officials are warning people to use caution when something seems too good to be true.
“If it sounds too good to be true, then it is probably a scam and could cost the victim a lot of money,” said Capt. Rodney Hester with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office.
That’s exactly what happened to a White Oak couple recently, when they were called and asked to purchase Green Dot Cards.
“The promise of riches was too great …” said the Rev. Bruce Cannon with the Bladen Baptist Association, who counseled the couple after the scam had been perpetrated. “It ended up costing them thousands of dollars.”
That amount actually rose to $5,000.
According to Hester, the Green Dot Card is a common new target.
“(The scam) begins with a prepaid debit card from Green Dot — due to low fees, free withdrawals at MoneyPass ATMs and the ability to waive monthly charges,” Hester said. “The Green Dot Card can also be reloaded by buying a MoneyPak, which can be used to pay bills and other services online. Any money sent using MoneyPak is untraceable.
“Thieves call the elderly and unsuspecting people on the phone and tell them that they have won a bunch of money,” Hester added. “The victims are told they have to send a small amount of money in order to receive their prize (and) they are instructed to put the money on a Green Dot MoneyPak. Once the money is put onto a card, the victim is instructed to tell the scammer the access code, which is then used to drain the MoneyPak.”
Cannon said that, after speaking with the family that had fallen prey to the scam, he researched the names and telephone numbers given to him by the couple and immediately found some interesting information.
“When I typed in some of the names … and used the word ‘scam’ beside the name in the search bar on Yahoo, sites would come up readily which tells me that lots of people are searching for these names,” Cannon said.
Those names and telephone numbers include the following: John Johnson, 876-588-9432; John Gunter, 402-404-6970 and 712-746-3752; and Bill Davis, 253-326-4221. Some show only a location, such as: Amy Gleeson of Pompano, Fla.; and Timothy Tillery of Baltimore, Md.
“Some funds were sent through M&T Bank, which has a New York address,” Cannon said.
According to Hester, scammers will use checks from verifiable bank accounts that have either been stolen or forged. He said banks may accept them without question and, when their bogus status is revealed a few weeks alter, the victim’s money is already gone.
“Scammers also use faith-based words like ‘Christian’ in the business name to give it credibility and to draw in victims from these faiths,” Hester said. “Usually, when you call these numbers back when the scam is revealed, the scammers are not even in the United States.”
Hester said the best bet is to never give anyone access to to a Green Dot Card’s code. But if there is the threat of a scammer targeting anyone with a Green Dot Card, they should call 1-800-473-3636 and the local law enforcement agency.
“The most important and most difficult part of any moneymaking scam is the collection,” Hester said. “It may be easy to get people to believe the fraud, but a scammer still needs to be able to collect the money.”