PARKERSBURG - Green Dot money pack scams struck the Mid-Ohio Valley multiple times in the past month, taking residents and businesses for more than $132,000, said Wood County and Washington County officials.
On Tuesday, Kevin Holbert, 44, owner of The Old Corral Bar and Grill, 120 Point Drive, in Parkersburg, reported he had been scammed for $1,400 by a person claiming to be with MonPower.
On Friday, Michael E. Turrill, 61, of 252 Mill Branch Road, Belpre, reported he had been scammed by persons claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service for $11,300, according to reports from the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Photo by Gretchen Richards
Kevin Holbert, owner of The Old Corral Bar and Grill on Pointe Drive in Parkersburg, shows off the three Green Dot money cards that he was scammed with in late April.
On June 24, a 91-year-old Marietta resident reported being scammed for approximately $120,000 by callers from Jamaica claiming to be operating a charity for Donald Trump, according to Washington County sheriff reports said.
Together, the three victims represent a loss of approximately $132,700, all from the purchasing of Green Dot money packs.
"Anytime a phone call of this nature is received, regardless of whom the scammers claims to be with, when the words "Green Dot" or "pre-paid" are mentioned, simply hang up the phone. You are being scammed," said Todd Meyers, spokesman for MonPower.
On April 16, Holbert's business, The Old Corral Bar and Grill, received a call informing his employees that the company's power bill was past due, Holbert said. The scammers claimed to be with MonPower, Holbert's electricity company, and claimed that unless payment in full of $1,400 was received by 4 p.m., the power would be shut off to the business, Holbert said.
Holbert suspects the scammers stole April's utility bill out of the mail and used the information it contained to demand payment of the past-due amount, he said.
"They were completely believable," Holbert said. "Not a foreign language, not even an accent. I felt like this was legit," he said.
The scammers instructed Holbert to go to the Kroger on Division Street and purchase three Green Dot money cards: one for $500, one for $496.83, and one for $379.96. They said only these precise amounts would be accepted, Holbert said.
Holbert purchased the cards, scratched off the number sequences on the card backs, and called the number back to provide the information to them, he said.
When the May bill arrived in the mail from MonPower showing that Holbert had not made April's payment, he was confused, Holbert said. Holbert was informed that his $1,400 had been lost to scammers, he said.
On June 24 in Belpre, Turrill received a phone call from a scammers claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service, saying he owed $6,800 in unpaid taxes, reports from the Washington County Sheriff's Office said.
Turrill was instructed to purchase Green Dot cards and provide the fake IRS agent with account numbers, the report said. Turrill complied.
When Turrill called back to pay, he was told that his payment had not come quickly enough, and that he now owed an additional $4,500, police reports said. Turrill said he did not have the money, reports said.
A second scammers called Turrill, claiming to be a Washington County deputy, with a caller ID stating that the call came from the Washington County Sheriff's Office, reports said. The fake deputy told Turrill that if he did not pay immediately, he would be arrested, police reports said.
Turrill borrowed the money from his brother and paid the remaining amount via Green Dot card to the fake IRS agent, reports said.
On Friday, a 91-year-old Marietta resident reported that she had been scammed out of nearly $120,000 by Green Dot scammers from Jamaica who claimed they were operating a charity for Donald Trump, reports from the Washington County Sheriff's Office indicated.
The 91-year-old reportedly had sent multiple amounts of money using Western Union and Green Dot cards to Jamaica on behalf of the charity, reports said. Receipts in her apartment added up to almost $120,000, reports said. Additional details about this case were not available Wednesday.
When someone demands money through prepaid or Green Dot cards, it is probably a scam, said Meyers on Wednesday.
"Anytime someone calls and says pay now or else, it's baloney," Meyers said.
These Green Dot scams have been around since 2012, Meyers said. These scammers claim to be from charities, utility and credit companies, IRS agencies and even banks, Meyers said. Their demands are always the same: some amount of money is past due and must be paid immediately or consequences will be dire, he said.
"MonPower will never demand payment immediately, will never ask for a Green Dot form of payment, and will never specify a time limit. These are scare tactics to frighten you into paying," Meyers said.
In the event that an account, whether business or residential, is scheduled for cut-off for non-payment, there is a lengthy process that must be undergone, Meyers said.
The customer will first receive a notice in the mail stating power will be terminated in 10 days, Meyers said. Seven days out, two phone calls will be made to the customers, informing them of the situation and providing options for payment methods, but never making demands or threats, he said.
Twenty-four hours before termination, a collection agent from MonPower, bearing proper identification, will knock on the door in an attempt to avoid disconnection, Meyers said.
"If you get a phone call telling you to pay now or else, just disregard it," Meyers said. "The cut-off process is established and very rigid and prescribed. Steps cannot be skipped," he said.
Customers of MonPower who are uncertain about their bills are encouraged to call 800-686-0022 to speak with a customer service representative, Meyers said.
Residents of Washington County who believe they have received a scam phone call should call the Washington County Sheriff's Office at 740-376-7070 immediately, officials said.
Residents of Wood County who believe they have received a scam phone call should call the Wood County Sheriff's Office at 304-424-1834 immediately.