Just this month eight local families called Action 9 after losing thousands of dollars in Green Dot card scams. They said they were tricked by fake websites and phony cellphone numbers offering loans and grants.
Todd Ulrich found the Green Dot cards available from stores people trust and learned that con artists are counting on that.
Scott Lato thought he had found a payday loan online but was turned down. Later he got a cellphone call saying the company was offering more.
“A $1,500 loan,” said Lato.
“And you were prequalified?” asked Ulrich.
“Yes sir,” replied Lato.
But first he had to pay a $400 dollar fee by going to Walgreens or Walmart and buy a Green Dot money card, load it with cash and then call back with the code number on the back.
“I feel like an idiot,” said Lato.
Within minutes the bad guys had drained the card.
“I didn't know he could take money off the card with a code,” said Lato.
An Orange County woman told Ulrich that scammers found her online with a fake government grants website. That's how they got her cellphone number and tricked her into paying a $1,400 fee for a phony $10,000 grant with a Green Dot card.
“It's something people don't know that's going on out there,” she said.
Scammers used to have their victims wire cash. Now it's the Green Dot money card that is on sale everywhere.
Victims buy the cards at stores they trust and, like a wire transfer, the Green Dot cash trail is nearly impossible to trace.
The man who stole Lato’s money used a fake website and a spoofed phone number that he is still answering somewhere.
Todd Ulrich called the number, “You took his money so where is the loan?”
“This is a totally legitimate company so you're not getting any information,” said the man on the phone before he hung up.
Green Dot's card and its website warn customers about possible scams and advises them to never give their card number to strangers.
Victims should file local police reports and contact the Federal Trade Commission online.