Holding up a Green Dot prepaid card, Niles Police Chief Dean Strzelecki briefed business owners that con artists are using it to defraud people.
Strzelecki, speaking to the Niles Chamber of Commerce Thursday, said the card has its merits, and can be useful for travelers because if someone steals it, they can only get the amount that has been loaded onto the card.
However, the department has seen two scam cases involving the card this week.
"The potential victim is contacted via phone, and told they've won a prize, such as a large sum of cash, a vehicle or some other high-value item. The caller then instructs the potential victim to go to a retailer to purchase a Green Dot card and preload the card with a large sum of money, typically over $1,000," he said.
The scam artist tells the victim to call back and read the card's ID number to the scam artist on the phone. That allows the scam artist to siphon the financial value off the card.
"The major problem is the offenders could be located in different countries," Strzelecki said, adding one was in Nigeria, making the crime impossible to prosecute.
One Glenview victim lost $4,000 to the scheme, and might have lost more, Strzelecki said, but an alert store clerk started asking the victim questions and then called the police.
He asked retailers to contact the police department at 847-588-6500 to find out how to prevent the scams. If police can educate the clerks who sell the cards, that could go a long way in protecting buyers, Strzelecki said.
Green Dot cards and similar prepaid cards are sold at Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, 7-Eleven and other stores.
The cards are especially popular with fraudsters because they are untraceable, Huffington Post reports.
The police department also issued tips for consumers:
- If you receive a call saying you won something, hang up. If you don't participate in the scam, you will not lose any money.
- If you believe you might have been a victim of a scam, please call your police department. The Niles Police Department is at 847-588-6500.