2017-08-02 / Front Page

NYPD: Beware Phone Payment Scammers

By Liz Goff
Police officials are warning the public to be alert to phone scammers who call their victims demanding cash for kidnapped relatives, who demand a payoff to access big bucks lotto winnings, to prevent utility firms from cutting off their service due to unpaid bills, or who offer to settle unpaid income tax debts by purchasing gift cards.

NYPD officials said the scammers turned up the heat in the Jackson Heights and Corona neighborhoods over the summer. “The number of telephone scams has increased significantly over the last few weeks in that area,” police officials said. “People must remain aware and must refuse to hand over their hard-earned cash to these thieves.”

The scammers will typically phone a family at home and tell them their child, mother, father, spouse or other family member has been kidnapped,” police said. “They tell the horrified victim that they can arrange release of their relative if they agree to pay ransom. They prey on people who believe them.”

Anyone that receives this type of call should immediately call 911 or go to their local precinct to report the call, police said. “The scammers try to scare people into believing they will harm their family member if they don’t pay up. But the truth is, they can’t harm someone they haven’t kidnapped, so not send cash and do not try to negotiate with these people, police said.

Victims of a second scam receive a call from an individual posing as an employee of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS,)” police said. “They say the victim owes the federal government a significant amount in back taxes. They say they can clear the debt if the victim purchases a specified amount of iTunes gift cards, and calls the scammers back to read off the card numbers,” police said. “Some victims repeat this scenario multiple times until the scammers are satisfied and promise to clear the debt,” police said.

“Federal, state, or city tax collectors do not call taxpayers at home to solicit or barter payments for back taxes,” police said. “They go right to your employer to garnish your wages, they advise you in writing before they confiscate bank accounts, foreclose on homes or do whatever to settle the back taxes.”

Cops said the thieves also call their unsuspecting victims posing as an agent collecting a past-due balance for a utility company and threaten to shut off power if they fail to make immediate payment.

The caller instructs the victim to purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak debit card at a local retailer. Victims are told to call back the scammer and read off the serial number from the MoneyPak to complete payment of the past due balance, police said.

The thieves hang up their phone and use the serial number to transfer funds from the MoneyPak card onto another debit card, effectively stealing the money from the victim.

Green Dot MoneyPak cards are produced and sold as a legitimate product used to reload cash to other debit cards without making a withdrawal from bank accounts, police sources said. The cards may only be purchased for cash, guaranteeing the safety of the buyer’s personal information.

People that purchase the cards as part of a scam are being victimized by unscrupulous thieves who pose a threat to their personal safety, police said. “Victims have been scammed out of thousands of dollars by thieves who never have to show their faces.”

NYPD officials first alerted the public to the Green Dot MoneyPak scam in December 2013, police said.  Officials are again urging the public to follow the following tips to avoid being victimized by the MoneyPak scammers”

  • Question any caller who insists on immediate payment for utility or other bills and call the utility company, a local IRS office or your local police to report the scam.
  • Never wire money, give credit or debit card numbers or Green Dot MoneyPak serial numbers to another person – on the phone or in person.
  • Remember, utility companies and federal agencies do not accept Green Dot MoneyPak funds as payment on your account.
  • Never, ever give personal information to a stranger on the phone, in a retail store or other setting.

Police are urging anyone who has received a call involving payment of a bill with a Green Dot MoneyPak or iTune gift cards card to immediately contact the Crime Prevention officer at your local police precinct or the Queens District Attorney’s Office at 718-286-6000.

“If someone calls to tell you they have kidnapped your family member, you should call 911 immediately or go straight to your local precinct to report the call,” police officials said.

Return to top

Copyright 1999-2019 The Service Advertising Group, Inc. All rights reserved.