The Billerica Police Department has taken numerous reports this year involving scams amounting to thousands of dollars in losses to residents. Many of these scams involve the use of Green Dot MoneyPak cards, MyVanilla reload cards, Paypal prepaid cards, iTunes cards and others.
The Green Dot MoneyPak is a cash reload product that can be used to reload a prepaid debit card, add money to a PayPal account without using a bank account or to make same-day payments to major companies.
These are some common scams using MoneyPak cards as payment methods:
Bank Account Deactivation – Scenario from a Billerica Resident
- Bank of America (or any other bank) customers are sent an email which says their account was deactivated and in order to reactivate it, you must update the account by giving (the scammer) personal information. They threaten to close the account if this is not done promptly. We called the bank and they confirmed that this was a scam and that they would NEVER send out an email like this to customers. Also…the email has a VERY realistic Bank of America logo and an email address ALMOST identical to Bank of America’s email domain.
In many of these scams the victim is often instructed to go to a local store and purchase green dot cards and call the suspect back. The victim is then instructed to read the MoneyPak number(s) back to the suspect. This gives the suspect immediate access to the money and there is no way to recover it. Suspects often use phone numbers with an official looking caller ID to appear legitimate.
Government Grant Scam – Scenario from BPD
- Victim receives an unsolicited call from a fictional US government agency informing the victim that they are the recipient of a large government grant. The victim is then given instructions covering the steps needed to collect the grant. The scammer then explains that, in order for the victim to be awarded the grant, they they will need to pay some “fees” to process the paperwork. The victim is then instructed to go to a local CVS, Walgreens or other store and buy cards (see above) in various amounts and to call back with the card numbers or to send them to a “government” account given to them by the scammer. Upon successfully sending the money, the scammer will attempt to illicit additional money from the victim until the victim realizes they have been scammed. There is often no way to recover any of the stolen funds.
Grand Jury Scam – Scenario from Billerica Resident
- A caller with an official sounding title leaves a voice mail informing you that you call immediately in reference to a court date that the recipient missed with the “Grand Jury”. Upon calling the number back the victim is told that they violated the law by missing the court date. The scammer then asks for a credit card number to “pay the debt for the missing court date” and failure to pay would result in their arrest.
Grandparent or Ransom Scam – Scenarios from the FBI
- A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a “grandchild.” If it is a phone call, it’s often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking that clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged…and needs money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.
- A new twist on this scam is a caller claiming the relative is in their custody and will be killed without payment.
- Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. And we’ve also received complaints about the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice…to further spin the fake tale
- We’ve also seen military families victimized: after perusing a soldier’s social networking site, a con artist will contact the soldier’s grandparents, sometimes claiming that a problem came up during military leave that requires money to address.
- While it’s commonly called the grandparent scam, criminals may also claim to be a family friend, a niece or nephew, or another family member.
Inheritance Scam – Scenario from BPD
- This scam is usually initiated with an unsolicited letter mailed to the victim (example letter here). The authors of these letters usually represent themselves as a resident of a foreign country. Their claimed role is often a bank official managing the large estate of a deceased client. In the letter they claim that their deceased client left a large amount of cash under bank management and there is no next of kin or beneficiary to transfer the money to. The author then requests that the letter recipient act as the next of kin. The author then agrees to share a percentage of the funds with the victim once all transactions are complete. Once the victim calls the number provided, the scammer will attempt to illicit a payment from the victim to cover legal fees or documentation associated with the inheritance claim. After the payment is made, the scammer will often attempt to claim more expenses until the victim realizes that they are being scammed or their ability to pay is exhausted.
Internal Revenue Service Scam – Scenario from IRS
- Victims receive an unsolicited phone call and are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card (MoneyPak) or wire transfer. The number on the caller ID is spoofed and may read “Washington DC”, “IRS” or something similar. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Please see the IRS website for more information.
Lottery or Payout – Scenario from BPD
- You are contacted by someone unsolicited (phone or mail) claiming you won money or are entitled to collect money (example letter here). The contact may come by phone, email or any other electronic platform. BPD has even documented these scams originating on Facebook Messenger. The victim is told that in order to claim or collect the money the victim needs to wire transfer funds to cover “processing, taxes or fees”. Once the victim wires money to the scammers more will be requested due to “additional costs” associated with collecting the winnings or payout. Unfortunately, victims will often perform multiple transfers before they realize they are being scammed.
Paving Scam – Scenario from Wellesley Police
- A man knocks on your door and says he has extra asphalt, extra roofing materials, paint or other home repair materials and is willing to pave your driveway, patch a roof, paint or perform other household repairs at a discounted price. His high pressure approach confuses and intimidates. If you agree to let them perform the work, here is what likely happens. Men and equipment suddenly appear and begin “working” on your driveway, roof or other area in or around your home. At some point, the conman claims a mistake was made and you owe thousands more than the original price. He threatens that if you refuse to pay, the “work” will cease. You may be escorted to the bank, to withdraw money. When you realize the scam you try to cancel the check only to learn it was cashed within minutes of it being written. Remember, anyone soliciting door to door in Billerica needs to have a solicitors license issued by BPD.
Publishers Clearing House Scam – Information from PCH
- There’s a lot of scams related to PCH and they often have a lot in common with the other scams above. Five tips to recognize PCH scams are:
- If you’re required to wire or pay any amount of money in order to claim a prize, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam.
- If you’re asked to load up a Green Dot MoneyPak or other money transfer card, in exchange for claiming your prize, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam.
- If someone tries to contact you in advance regarding a prize delivery, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam!
- If someone calls you on the telephone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House and says you have won, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam.
- If someone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House tries to send you a friend request on Facebook, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam.
Puppy/Pet Scam – Scenario from BPD
- An individual shopping for a new puppy searches the internet and finds a website advertising puppies for sale. The perspective buyer contacts the breeder through the website expressing interest in purchasing a dog. Buyer arranges to purchase a dog by wiring money to the breeder to cover purchase and shipping costs. The dog never arrives and the “breeder” no longer communicates for the buyer. Before committing to buying a new pet the buyer should conduct proper research. Most reputable breeders will be registered with the American Kennel Club. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau and try to purchase from a local kennel.
Recruitment Scam – Scenario from BPD
- Recruitment fraud is a growing trend and targets individuals that are actively searching for employment opportunities. This scam usually involves the creation of fake listings from well known employers in the hopes of getting interested applicants to divulge personal information and/or by soliciting a payment for services or materials. These scams can involve recruitment emails, fake websites and fake job postings. Most employers don’t require any type of payment when applying for employment. Applicants should verify any requests with the actual employer by calling the company directly (not using the information provided in the original communication).
Secret or Mystery Shopper Scam – Scenario from the Federal Trade Commission
- You may have heard about people who are “hired” to be mystery shoppers, and told that their first assignment is to evaluate a money transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram. The shopper receives a check with instructions to deposit it in a personal bank account, withdraw the amount in cash, and wire it to a third party. The check is a fake.By law, banks must make the funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. It may seem that the check has cleared and that the money has posted to the account, but when the check turns out to be a fake, the person who deposited the check and wired the money will be responsible for paying back the bank.It’s never a good idea to deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then wire money back.
Sextortion – From Krebs on Security
- Here’s a clever new twist on an old email scam that could serve to make the con far more believable. The message purports to have been sent from a hacker who’s compromised your computer and used your webcam to record a video of you while you were watching porn. The missive threatens to release the video to all your contacts unless you pay a Bitcoin ransom. The new twist? The email now references a real password previously tied to the recipient’s email address. Read more….
Tech Support Scam – Scenario from the Federal Trade Commission
- The latest version of the scam begins with a phone call. Scammers can get your name and other basic information from public directories. They might even guess what computer software you’re using. Once they have you on the phone, they often try to gain your trust by pretending to be associated with well-known companies or confusing you with a barrage of technical terms. They may ask you to go to your computer and perform a series of complex tasks. Sometimes, they target legitimate computer files and claim that they are viruses. Their tactics are designed to scare you into believing they can help fix your “problem.” These scams often ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable. They may also attempt to enroll you in a worthless warranty or ask you for a credit card or pre paid debit (MoneyPak) so they can bill you for phony services. In addition, you may even be tricked into installing malware on your computer or be directed to a malicious website.
Utility Company – Scenario from AARP
- The callers claim to be billing representatives from your utility company but are actually crooks looking for a quick payoff. They tell you that to avoid an immediate shutoff, you need to settle an overdue bill by providing them with your credit card number or a prepaid debit card (MoneyPak).
Vehicle Crash Scam – Scenario from BPD
- The victim receives a call from a stranger claiming that they were involved in a motor vehicle crash with a relative of the victim (usually a child or spouse). The scammer usually names the relative by name. While describing the circumstances the scammer will then claim that the victim’s relative had caused an issue at the crash scene and was subsequently assaulted and injured. The caller then claims that they are holding the relative against his/her will and will not be released until the victim wires money. After sending the money the victim usually finds out that the whole story is fake and the relative is unharmed.
We encourage residents that fall victim to these scams to report the incident to the Police Department.