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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – The only things between a criminal and someone else's money are a 14-digit number and a good lie, as too many Arkansans are learning.

Criminals are increasingly turning to items such as Green Dot MoneyPak cards as a means to steal. Criminals trick consumers into believing that sweepstakes winnings await, that they can avoid jail time or they can pay their overdue utility bills with payments from these types of cards. Once criminals have the number from the back of the card, it's almost impossible for a consumer to ever recover money.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert today to warn Arkansans about potential scams and to offer tips on how to avoid fraud when using MoneyPak or similar products.

"Consumers have lost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars because they have been deceived into buying these cards and then essentially putting money directly into the hands of criminals," McDaniel said. "Consumers need to be skeptical of any telephone call or sales pitch from someone they don't know demanding a payment in this fashion. Ask questions and call our office if you don't get good answers."

These scams are similar to wire-transfer schemes, although con artists need nothing more than then 14-digit number on the back of the card in order to draw down funds loaded on the card. They can get that number from an unsuspecting consumer via phone or email. That makes transactions convenient for criminals and almost untraceable.

Here are a few scenarios to avoid:

"You've won a million!" -- Consumers haven't won the lottery, a sweepstakes or a brand-new car if they are first required to pay a "processing fee" or taxes. Winners wouldn't have to pay money to get money, nor would they be notified by phone call from Jamaica or other foreign countries.

"You missed jury duty" – Don't fret about paying a "fine" with a MoneyPak card for overlooking a nonexistent jury summons. Consumers who receive this type of call should hang up and call the court they are said to have missed with any additional questions.

"Pay a fine, or do some time" – If consumers actually have warrants for their arrests, no law enforcement agency is going to call and require them to acquire MoneyPak cards to pay fines and avoid jail. Likewise, the IRS won't ask specifically for MoneyPak cards to pay back taxes and penalties.

"Lights out" – Though scammers may threaten, utility companies are not on the way to shut off electricity to businesses for nonpayment of utility bills unless the business immediately pays some bogus overdue amount via MoneyPak.

Unfortunately, criminals are often inventing new ways of conning consumers into these types of scams. In addition, some MoneyPak scams involve sales of nonexistent merchandise on websites or upfront fee payments for loans that a consumer never receives.

Consumers who legitimately use MoneyPak and similar cards, such as those consumers who do not have bank accounts, should treat the cards just as they would cash in their wallets. MoneyPak transactions are unlike credit-card transactions in that they can't be reversed.

Remember:

  • Never provide a MoneyPak number to an unknown individual.
  • Avoid offers requiring the sharing of a MoneyPak number by telephone or email.
  • Never email a MoneyPak number directly to any merchant, and beware of websites that specifically ask for payment via MoneyPak.
  • Be skeptical of using a MoneyPak card for any offer that requires payment before an item is received.

For more information, visit the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, or call (800) 482-8982.

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