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The Los Angeles Police Department is warning citizens to beware of a common scam in which perpetrators request that a victim use a pre-paid money card to pay a bill.
The crimes are usually committed via telephone, and the suspects claim they represent bill collectors for utilities, predominantly the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, but also as collectors for the IRS, or for parking or traffic citations. The suspects request that the victim purchase a pre-paid, re-loadable debit card (Green Dot/Money Pak, Visa, MasterCard, Vanilla Card, etc.) for the specific amount of the bill charge. They are also known to threaten that the victim’s utilities will be shut off immediately, or that a citation will go to warrant if the victim does not pay. The victim is then instructed to call the suspect back with the PIN/account number for card.
Authorities are warning that once a suspect has the PIN, they are able to transfer the funds to any other credit card, which is an untraceable method of transferring money. The victim is left no recourse once the money has been transferred.
Potential victims are warned to be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason, and to never give out personal or financial information to anyone who emails or calls unsolicited. Authorities are also warning people to never wire money, provide debit or credit card numbers or Green Dot MoneyPak numbers to anyone they do not know. Utility companies and government agencies will never contact people demanding immediate payment by pre-paid re-loadable debit cards.
Suspects also sometimes send false emails claiming to be with the IRS to victims before calling them. Information can be verified with the IRS by calling (800)829-1040. For information about preventing scams, visit www.lapdonline.com.
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