A 44-year-old woman on S. Wynn Road reported to police last month that she was a victim of telecommunications fraud after she received a phone call from someone alleging to be from the Internal Revenue Service claiming she owed thousands in taxes.
The caller told the woman that if she didn’t immediately pay $3,100 she owed in taxes, she would be arrested, according to the report. The perpetrator then advised her to load the money onto a “MoneyPak” account, then to call back with account information. The woman did so, then called the person back and gave them the numbers for the MoneyPak account, which provided access to the $3,100. The woman called the MoneyPak company and was advised that it was a fraudulent transaction and that she should report it to the police. The company was unable to reverse the transaction.
MoneyPak works as a “cash top-up” card. Once a card is purchased at a participating retailer with cash, it can be used to reload prepaid cards, add money to a PayPal account without using a bank account, or make same day payments to companies, according to a website called Green Dot MoneyPak.
The MoneyPak account number, according to the website, should be guarded “like cash.”
“Transactions cannot be reversed, so only give the number to a trusted recipient. Green Dot is not responsible for the quality or non-receipt of any goods or services.”
The phone scams are not an uncommon occurrence, according to Oregon Det. Sgt. Kelly Thibert, and that people of any age can be victims.
“People engage in transactions through eBay or Craig’s List where they are wiring money. We’ve had elderly people who have been called and told that their grandson is in a Mexican prison, and to wire money. A lot of people call us before they send the money to ask us if it is legitimate, and we tell them it’s not,” said Thibert.
“If people are unsure, they should call their local police department to see what’s going on, or they should do their homework and follow up with the agency that is claiming they owe money. They may find out with just a simple phone call that it was a fraudulent call,” she said. “Most people know when they are in debt or owe money. A lot of people will send money out of fear instead of looking into it. If it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t. Don’t be afraid to call the police department. A lot of times, it’s just not one person in the area. You’ll have three or four people who have gotten these types of phone calls,” said Thibert.
She was recently contacted by a woman who said someone claiming to be from the FBI called her demanding that she send money to pay off an old debt, or she would be arrested.
“As soon as she called me, I told her it was a scam that’s going around – not just in Oregon, but across the country. They say they are with legitimate government offices, which throws people off, but they’re not,” said Thibert. Green Dot MoneyPak offers the following tips on its website to protect users from fraud:
• Refuse any offer that asks you to buy a MoneyPak and share the number or receipt information by email or phone;
• 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;
• Don’t use MoneyPak to pay taxes or fees to claim “winnings” on a foreign lottery or prize promotion. Unless it’s an approved MoneyPak partner, don’t use MoneyPak for any offer that requires you to pay before you get the item;
• To use your MoneyPak with online merchants like PayPal or eBay, transfer the money to your PayPal account before you pay the merchant. Don’t email your MoneyPak number directly to any merchant.