MADERA COUNTY – Sheriff John Anderson is alerting both business and property owners about a group of scam artists posing as PG&E personnel who are threatening customers, telling them to pay up or lose power.
The Sheriff’s Office has already received two complaints, one from a filling station in Eastern Madera County and one from a restaurant in Madera.
Both establishments were advised that they each owed nearly $1,000 in past payments, and the debt had to be paid in full and cleared immediately.
Both businesses were told they had to settle the bill by purchasing a Green Dot Money Pak Card. Fortunately the owner of the restaurant – who supposedly owed $994 – hung up and called PG&E, and found out it was a scam.
The filing station owner wasn’t so lucky. He not only paid the phony charge of $987.41, but by paying it through a Green Dot card, he can’t recoup his loss, and will never know who stole it.
Sheriff Anderson says the callers are savvy and very convincing when discussing what they call a very serious matter, saying this may be the victim’s last chance to keep their power on.
Startled by the potential loss of gas and electricity, the victim asks if a check can be sent out immediately. The caller says no, the debt must be cleared today. To do this, they tell the victim to get a Green Dot Money Pak card, and place on that card the amount of money owed.
Green Dot cards work the same as debit and cash/cards, and are fast becoming a con artist’s choice for taking your money.
No longer do they need to access your money by having you wire it through Western Union, for example. All they need is the number on that card, and voilà, payment made.
HOW GREEN DOT MONEY PAK CARDS WORK
Green Dot cards are prepaid MasterCard and Visa cards available to consumers in thousands of retail stores nationwide like Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and Walmart.
Green Dot cards are used just like debit and or credit cards. The user of the card can add any amount of money to the card to make in-store or online purchases, or even use the card to pay bills.
Unlike a personal debit and or credit card, the Green Dot Money Pak card only stores money, it is not backed by a checking account or line of credit. That means any transaction made from a Green Dot card is untraceable.
In the case of the thieves posing as PG&E personnel, once you have placed the amount of money they claim you owe on the Green Dot Money Pak card, you will be asked to give the person the number of that card so that they can withdraw the money. Or they could require you to make an online transfer through information they provide.
Sheriff Anderson says your best defense is to hang up if you get a call like this. Then, he adds, call the company, to find out if you are in fact delinquent on a bill.