Police warn of phone scam

Police warn of phone scam|Police warn of phone scam
Joseph Donahue, a victim, speaks with Assemblyman Benedetto at a 45th Precinct press conference on the Green Dot scam.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

A scheme to steal people’s hard earned cash through Green Dot MoneyPak cards, and wiring money, is raising suspicions.

Now the Police Department in the east Bronx is getting proactive and raising awareness after what police sources said are string of con-artist scams involving the pre-paid cards.

Suspects pretending to be bill collectors are calling people on the phone and asking them to buy Green Dot MoneyPak cards, or wire money, for bogus debts.

Changing stories

The con artists’ stories are always changing, said a police source, but the most common is a person posing as a bill collector for a utility company or the Internal Revenue Service.

They tell the victims that they need to send money immediately and that they should go to pharmacies that sell Green Dot MoneyPak Cards, which can be used like debit or gift cards and need to be loaded with money. They can only be purchased with cash.

They give a call back number, or sometimes even stay on the phone with the person as they go to the store and purchase the card. Once the money is placed on the card, the scammers ask for a 14-digit pin number on the back of the card, and gain access through the money electronically.

Warning signs

There are some tell-tale warning signs, said 49th Precinct crime prevention officer Tyrone Mederos.

“No private entity or government office is going to call you over the phone and demand immediate payment for any reason using a specific medium (way of paying),” said Mederos. “The IRS is not going to call you saying that they want a gift card from you now. The same goes for wire transfers.”

The police are asking anyone who receives such a phone call to get the number of the person making the request, and any other information they can gather, and phone the local precinct.

Officer Mederos said that as he walked throughout the precinct area to tape up flyers warning of the scam, he heard reports from even more people who had been victimized.

Variations on the con are people calling claiming to represent district attorneys, U.S. Marshals, and police in far off jurisdictions where a relative is supposed to have been in a car accident. Another variation, he said, is that the victims had watched internet porn without paying, and needed send money or be arrested.

A pattern

“We are seeing mostly elderly victims,” a police source said.

Since anyone with the 14-digit pin on the back of the money card can drain the card of funds, theft is easy for the perpetrators. They never have to show up to collect the money.

It is then channeled through various accounts to hide the source, said Mederos.

Wiring money through MoneyGram or Western Union is also a variation on the same scam, police said.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
45th Preclnct Capt. James McGeown speaks during Feb. 22 press conference on the Green Dot scam, flanked by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Councilman Jimmy Vacca.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

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