Aurora Police are investigating two instances of thefts by people posing as ComEd employees telling unsuspecting business owners their power will be shut off unless they immediately pay supposed past due accounts with Green Dot Money Pak pre-paid cards.
Green Dot Money Pak cards work as “cash top-up cards” and are used the same as cash. They are used to reload other pre-paid cards, adding money to PayPal accounts without using a bank account, and to make same-day payments to major companies. Green Dot warns its customers to never give out card numbers to anyone they don’t know or trust.
The thefts follow the same basic premise where victims are contacted by phone, are told they owe thousands of dollars to the utility, and that their power will be shut off unless payment is received immediately. The victims are then instructed to pay the “balance” with the pre-paid cards and are directed to area stores that sell them. The victims are then told to read the card numbers to the caller. Unlike credit or debit cards, once the money is removed from Green Dot Money Pak cards, it is not refunded to the victim.
The total loss to the businesses, a Near East side restaurant and a Far East side floral shop, exceeds $5000. According to Aurora Police, they have received several calls from other businesses reporting the same ruse, however, those businesses became suspicious and did not go along with the con.
Aurora Police remind the community that ComEd does not require immediate payment of accounts in this fashion and that anyone receiving similar calls should contact the utility at 1-800-334-7661.
In a third incident involving pre-paid cards, a 34 year old man lost over $1000 after being contacted by an individual posing as a government employee who told him that due to his excellent credit, he qualified for a grant totaling over $10,000. The victim was told that in order to get the money, he would have to pay a fee using Green Dot Money Pak cards. The victim engaged in three different transactions before becoming suspicious and contacting police.
This incident reinforces Green Dot’s warning to customers that they should never give out card numbers to anyone they don’t know or trust. Also, legitimate financial offers or prize winnings should never require a down payment or fee in order to collect. The best way to avoid being scammed by these types of callers is simply to hang up the telephone.