“It happened to me.” Normally, Navigate NC is helping seniors to avoid scams in the Triangle area cities in N.C. Here’s a new twist: the scammers are not only calling senior clients, they are calling senior providers as well! (Allow me to ILLUMIN-ATE, our -ATE word of the week).
It was 6:01 pm EST on Friday. A desperate voice left a somewhat garbled message on NAVIGATE NC’s voice mail. A man named Al said his grandmother Lucy “over there on (XYZ) Street, you know, off (Prominent thoroughfare) Avenue? She needs help now.” She needed a Green Dot MoneyPak from (national drugstore) Pharmacy, he claimed, right away and could I help? Leaving an out of state number (that’s not so unusual for us at NAVIGATE NC), he begged me to call him back as soon as possible. He added that NAVIGATE NC “had come highly recommended,” but he did not say by whom. Yes, this was one of the many phone scams preying on unsuspecting seniors.
Green Dot MoneyPak cards are reloadable debit cards, available everywhere, and you can use them to pay your phone, cable, or credit card bill. They’re typically for people who don’t have or want bank accounts.
Scams involving Green Dot have been constructed six ways to Sunday. (Poor Green Dot, how do they handle their reputation management?)
MoneyPak users should know that anyone they share their card number with has instant access to their funds. Con artists trick consumers to loading their MoneyPak cards with cash and then divulging the number, allowing the scammer to siphon all the money on a card. Scammers like them because they’re more convenient than a money wire, but just as untraceable.
The above request that we got for a client, is indeed a new twist. A simple internet search will quickly render similar occurrences here in NC and across America. Here are a few examples of the ways in which Navigate NC is helping seniors avoid scams:
- An elderly couple receives a call and are told they won 2.5 million is sweepstakes and that NC’s Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office will require them to pay taxes up front prior to the awarding of any cash prize.
- The Rockingham County Sheriff’s Department warns of calls from scammers advising folks that they have won large sums of money, and/or luxury cars. Potential victims are directed to go to their local Walmart and get a “GREEN DOT Rechargeable Debit Card” for varying amounts, usually hundreds of dollars, to send to the scammers to cover taxes, handling fees, etc. for these prizes. These scammers were using the names of large companies, such as Geico Insurance, to make their scam sound legit.
- Ransomware. Sometimes it’s not just seniors who need assistance avoiding fraud. A message dropped down while she was working and the computer appeared to have been seized. She could move neither forward nor backward, and the message was there every time she logged off and back on her PC.
She saw an “official” FBI seal, a blaring warning: “Your computer has been locked!”, and some variation of the message “You have been violating copyright and related rights law.” There were realistic-looking and very detailed instructions on how she could pay a fine within the next 48 hours (here’s where MoneyPak comes in) and have her computer unlocked. A Green Dot MoneyPak, per the notice, could be purchased at major retailers such as WalMart, CVS, Walgreens, Kmart, etc. Don’t be embarrassed to communicate possible fraud. Navigate NC is helping senior avoid scams by encouraging communication as well.
Even though Green Dot Money Pak cards are available in 50,000 locations, and scammers could send their victims anyplace, they tend to push them to a place you know and trust so you feel comfortable buying the card.
In the case of ransomware our staff member did not fall prey to the scam, but fear and inability to further use or log on her computer without the FBI warning did send her straight to a tech center. She had to leave the equipment for days and expensive repair, and willingly purchased a 1-year 24/7 warranty package at a hefty price.
The Green Dot MoneyPak is a legal product.To their credit, MoneyPak has fraud warnings on the Homepage of their website. The MoneyPak cards do carry a yellow warning on the back of the card warning consumers of scams. That warning also indicates that Green Dot isn’t responsible for reimbursing the consumer if criminals deceptively obtain funds from the MoneyPak card. Despite these warnings, scammers continue to be successful preying on people using scare tactics and creating emotional crises.
It’s our job here at NAVIGATE NC to talk with seniors and their families to illuminate them about consumer fraud and many other subjects that touch our lives. This post is but one way we walk our talk and protect our clients.
A new and active scam targeting the growing Netflix audience surface as I wrote this post. Netflix customers are advised by a phony website that their account has been suspended due to “unusual activity”. The customer is directed to call a Member Support Center, and a con artist recommends a download of “Netflix support software”. This action installs a Trojan virus that is able to read your personal (billing) information.
Sure, it preys on Netflix users, but if you think about it this scam also targets “our blinding trust of customer service reps with our personal information”. That realization is gnawing at me now. For more information
If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam or if you want to learn to be a smarter consumer, we encourage you to contact the Consumer Protection Unit of your state’s Attorney General’s Office. In NC you may call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM (1-877-566-7226) or (919) 716-6000, or file a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.
NAVIGATE NC: illuminating seniors and their families through communication and education. Helping seniors avoid scams is just one of the ways we do that. We are your eyes and ears, looking out for your seniors and bringing you peace of mind. Connect With Us [http://www.navigatenc.com/connect-us/] or simply give us a call at (919) 628-4428 to discuss options in senior care.
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