Niagara Gazette — This past March, a Wheatfield restaurant owner was called by someone who claimed to be from National Grid and informed him that the restaurant’s $1,700 utility bill had not been paid. He was instructed to pay the bill over the phone using Green Dot-loaded credit cards.
The owner traveled to several local drugstores, purchased the cards and called in the necessary information.
Then the owner found out he had already paid the electric bill. When he called National Grid, he was informed that the man was not one of their representatives.
The owner was a victim of a “Green Dot” scam, a nationwide occurrence in which scammers call pretending to be from a power company or the IRS and demand that owed money be sent over the phone via Green Dot Moneypak cards, which are untraceable.
Area police agencies have seen a handful of scams similar to this one throughout the area over the past year, Niagara County Undersheriff Michael Filicetti said.
In some cases, the scammers tell the victims that they’ve won a prize and just need to pay a fee via Green Dot cards over the phone.
In September 2013, employees of the Rite Aid store on South Transit Road helped foil an attempted scam when an elderly woman tried to load two Green Dot cards with $500 each, telling clerks she needed to pay for a car she just won.
The woman told Lockport police that someone claiming to be from Publisher’s Clearinghouse called and told her that she had won a Mercedes, and it would be parked in the driveway when she got home.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Filicetti said. “A lot of times scammers will call saying that a person has won money or a prize, and they just need to send money for the transaction.”