MIAMI (CBS4) – Scammers have found a new way to drain a target’s savings without going after their bank account.

They’re making use of “pre-paid” cards which more people are using to buy things and pay bills.

Shirley Hill found out firsthand.

In February, she got an email from the “American Pay Day Loan Company” which said she’d been approved for a loan.

“I wanted to do something good for my mother-in-law because she was having a hard time,” said Hill.

But when Hill called the phone number on the email she was told that first, she’d have to prove she’d be able to pay the loan back. Hill said the person on the other end told her to buy three Green Dot MoneyPak cards and load them with $1,400 dollars. She did.

“Then he says ‘scratch off the number on the back and give me the number,’” Hill recalled.

It was a move Hill now deeply regrets. Within moments, her money was gone, most likely forever.

Prepaid cards are just like gift cards. Anyone who has the number on the back can get immediate access to the funds and the money becomes untraceable.

“If a con artist is looking to take advantage of somebody, this is one way for them to be successful at it,” said Lori Wilson with the Better Business Bureau.

Wilson said prepaid cards have become the payment method of choice for scammers.

“We’ve seen this situation with sweepstakes, lotteries, work at home, people purchasing something off a website,” Wilson said.

The Green Dot package comes with a warning saying the company is not responsible for paying you back if someone steals the funds. A bitter disappointment for Hill who she’s now deeper in debt than before.

“After I thought about it, I was so darn stupid. We needed the money,” said Hill.

Green Dot said it’s working on a safety system, possibly sending alerts to the owners when there’s an unusual pattern of activity on the cars. For now, they should be treated like gift cards. If you lose them, or someone else gets the account number, there’s no way to recover that money.


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