Many of America’s 33.5 million unbanked and underbanked households rely on prepaid debit cards to pay bills and make purchases. Cash reload packs–like Green Dot’s MoneyPaks–are used by these consumers to load money on their prepaid debit cards. While cash reload packs offer people without bank accounts critical access to the financial system, they are also a frequent target of scammers who see them as a quick way to get access to cash.
In the last few months, Fraud.org has received dozens of complaints about a disturbing new scam designed to prey on consumers using MoneyPaks as a payment method. While some of the details of the scam may differ, a consumer is typically tricked out of their money in the end.
A typical MoneyPak scam works like this:
A consumer will go to a retailer such as CVS or 7-Eleven to purchase a MoneyPak to add funds to their prepaid card. However, once the consumer purchases the card, instead of registering the card at the official MoneyPak.com website, the consumer goes to a fake website, sometimes designed to look like the official MoneyPak site. It’s unclear how exactly consumers are finding their way to these fake sites. However, we suspect consumers may find the fake website through an ad they see on a search engine, by mistyping the Web address of the real MoneyPak website, or by malware on their computer misdirecting the consumer’s browser to a fake site. Unfortunately for the consumer, many of these fake websites might look very convincing. Some even have fake customer service phone numbers as part of the ploy. While these sites are fake, the consequences for consumers who fall into this trap are all too real.
In the complaints Fraud.org has received, once the consumer enters a MoneyPak card number on the website or provides the number to a scammer impersonating a customer service representative (to “register” the card, for example), the funds are quickly transferred from their MoneyPak to an account the scammer controls. The consumer will only become aware of the scam when they check their prepaid debit card’s balance and see that no funds have been transferred to their card. Unfortunately, once this occurs, it is almost impossible to stop the transaction, and the scammer will have already made off with the money he has stolen.
While the results of the MoneyPak scam can be devastating on consumers’ pocketbooks, there are several easy steps you can take to protect yourself from this fraud:
Always type in the www.moneypak.com web address on your browser. There are websites out there designed to mirror the actual MoneyPak website so as to trick consumers into giving up their MoneyPak account number. There are also links which appear to send you to the legitimate MoneyPak website, but it will in fact redirect to a lookalike site. The easiest way to steer clear of this scam is to type in the exact website found on the back of your MoneyPak (www.moneypak.com) and follow the directions carefully.
Never create a MoneyPak account or deposit your MoneyPak into a prepaid debit card over the phone. The only way to create an account or deposit your MoneyPak onto a prepaid card is on the MoneyPak website found on the back of your card. If someone over the phone offers to help you deposit your funds onto your card, it is a scam.
Treat your MoneyPak number and receipt as cash. Anyone who has your MoneyPak number has the ability to drain its funds. Safeguard this number as you would cash and do not give it to anyone who you do not want to have access to your funds.
Remember, no legitimate business or government agency will ever request a MoneyPak as a form of payment. Anyone who is asking you to pay by MoneyPak is most likely a perpetrator of one of the many other MoneyPak related scams.
While MoneyPak is used successfully every day to help consumers access e-commerce, it is important to remain vigilant to protect yourself from falling victim to fraud. If you suspect that you may have become a victim, or if you think you stumbled upon a fraudulent MoneyPak website or phone number, please report it immediately. You can file a complaint at Fraud.org via our secure online complaint form. We’ll share your complaint with our network of law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who can put fraudsters behind bars. You can also fill out MoneyPak’s Victim Assistance Fraud form, to report fraudulent activity.