Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Taken for a Ride

This post is about scams.

No, I was not scammed, but I was taken on a ridealong. This serves as my warning. A public service announcement, if you will.

This past Memorial Day, as we were enjoying lunch with my parents, they got a call from Publisher's Clearing House! Mom answered the phone and quickly passed it off to Dad for him to tell the person on the other line they weren't interested in whatever he was trying to sell. But after years of sending in those postcards with the scratch-offs and stickers, Dad was excited at the prospect of a $750,000 prize. He listened to the pitch, reluctant to believe it, but wanting to be convinced it was legit.

The guy on the phone told him there was a driver about 45 minutes from his house with a certified check, and needed Dad to confirm he was himself by fulfilling a task at the service desk at Wal-Mart, keeping him on the line the entire time. Once there the scammer instructed him to purchase a "Green-Dot Moneypak Paper Card" for $500. If you're not familiar with the Green-Dot card, it basically works like a prepaid debit card. You buy it with cash, and then can use the 14 digit scratch-off number from the back of the card to pay for things online. They can be used for things like reloading a Pay-Pal account, or to pay phone or utility bills.

Wanting to be a sounding board for him (and secretly hoping it was legit myself, cause I know my dad is a very generous man and would share the wealth) I volunteered to ride along as he drove to the store, not knowing he would be asked to lay down his hard earned money. Once there, we explained the request to our customer service desk worker who voiced her concern about the affair and advised he not make the purchase.

But that payday was ever so enticing. And the man was still on the phone. This guy was a smooth talker as he just kept on working it. Saying it was imperative Dad keep his winnings confidential until the prize check was awarded and that the driver could not come to his door until he had that 14 digit claim code in hand. He suggested he go to his ATM and get cash, then go to a different store to purchase the card. The upside was just too good. $750,000 was on the line. Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand dollars. Three quarters of a million bucks. Through this, we knew all it could take to rake it in, even if he bought the card was to never give them the code should they ask for it, until he had cash in hand.

We never did buy the card. the charade had finally gone on long enough, the offer was just too good. And, Google is our friend. One quick search on the PCH site revealed the true nature of the scam, and we were able to walk away. Told the guy finally it wasn't going to work and wished him luck in his future illegal endeavers. See, that Green-Dot card is like cash for a thief. With that number from the back, he or his associates can transfer that $500 to another debit card before Dad would be able to even get anywhere to do it himself. We never got to the point where he was asked for the number, but its clear that it was the endgame.

So, how do you protect yourself or your parents or your kids from scams like this? The MoneyPak card has a warning on the back of it to treat it like money and state they are not responsible for any money you may lose. First thing to do is remember that your money is your money, and you should never have to spend money to win money. That is not a sweepstakes, its called gambling. The rest I think is best expressed in a monologue from the made-for-tv movie... ah, who am I kidding, lets do a list.

1. Never give out any personal information over the phone or online. A legit business will never ask you to confirm your password or account number.

2. .....

Nope, that pretty much sums it up. Never give out your personal information to anyone, especially if you did not initiate the conversation. Think about your finances and how hard you've worked to keep them above water, how hard you've worked to earn your money, how much your family depends on you to make smart decisions about your wealth. Think about your retirement, or your grandkids upcoming birthday. These are the things that matter, not the $750,000 you could have won at random. Don't be played the fool. You'll feel less the fool for missing out on a potential prizefall than you will for getting taken for a ride.


  1. So glad your dad didn't get taken for a ride. That sort of crap is just so wrong and I truly do not understand how a human can justify scamming another human.

    1. Thanks! The worst part about it was the guy kept asking how Dad felt about winning and what he would do with his winnings. Dad kept saying "if this is legit, I'm so excited! I'm just in shock" And the guy kept telling him it was legit, there really was all that money coming his way.