Green Dot phone scammers hitting east Bronx – again

Phone grifters working the Green Dot MoneyPak scam are at it again in the east Bronx.

The police are once again urging the public to be vigilant against a scheme known as the Green Dot MoneyPak Card Scam, where people are conned out of their money, supposedly to pay bogus debts.

The gist of the scam is that someone calls you claiming to be from a utility company or the IRS, and demands immediate payment of a debt using Green Dot MoneyPak pre-paid debit cards, according to the NYPD.

Or someone pretends to be a family member who has been in a car accident, or threatens physical violence to a family member unless a debt is paid immediately through the use of Green Dot MoneyPak cards.

The scam became prevalent in the local area in the past year, and examples of mostly elderly victims can be found across the country. The cards are not linked to any bank account, making it easier for the con-artists to launder the plundered money.

Cops warn public

As reports were surfacing from Pelham Bay and Locust Point of attempted crimes on at least two potential victims, 45th Precinct Crime Prevention Officer Erin Rabbitt urged the public to be alert.

“No federal, state, or city agency is going to ask you to open a bill using Green Dot cards,” she said. “If they are calling and asking you to do that, it should be a red flag.”

A NYPD bulletin urges the public to be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason, to never give out personal or financial information, never wire money or provide debit cards like Green Dot, and to know that utility companies and government agencies will never contact you demanding immediate payment using GreenDot money cards.

Local victims

For recent victim Margaret Annunziata of Pelham Bay, the scam was particularly disturbing because the caller pretended to be her grandson who supposedly was in a car accident.

“The phone rang and a young man’s voice said “grandma?” she said. “It may have been power of suggestion, but I said yes, Jimmy, (her grandson’s name).”

The caller asked her to please not tell anyone else in the family that he had been in a car accident in the Dominican Republic with a friend. He said he needed to money to pay restitution. When the caller tripped up in his pronunciation, she realized that it was not her grandson, but continued to play along. She wonders how the caller even knew she was a grandmother.

“I just think it is a shame that they do this to people,” said Annunziata. “I could see where people could fall for it. The initial reaction was panic…but I always said I would never fall for a scam and now I am proud of myself.”

Locust Point residents Frank and Cathy Faccente were also nearly victims on Wednesday, June 4 when a caller demanded immediate payment of a bogus tax bill on behalf of the IRS.

In the beginning, they sounded legitimate, but then Cathy got on the phone and asked for her husband’s Social Security number. At that point, the caller hung up the phone.

“I am sure it must work for every so many callers to make it worth their while,” she said.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.