Scam: Caller tells consumer utilities will be cut off unless bill is paid with Green Dot card

scam-alert-pic-150x150An Austin consumer has reported a suspicious call that was most definitely a scam. A caller from a 936 area code told her that her bill hadn’t been paid and her utilities were about to be cut off in a few hours.

The caller said the city would not accept a check as payment and to go to CVS or Walgreens and get a Paypal Green Dot card without either a Visa or Mastercard logo and to call them back with the number.

The consumer did the smart thing instead and called the city of Austin, where she was told her utilities were not about to be cut off and that the call did not come from them. The 936 area code was a pretty big giveaway. Austin’s area codes are 512 and the recently-added 737. Also, a city or private utility company would not ask a consumer to pay immediately with a Green Dot card.

BBB receives a lot of reports about phone scams asking people to wire money. Sometimes the caller claims the consumer has won a prize and needs to pay some kind of tax or administrative fee. Watchyourbuck post in April describes such a scam from someone pretending to be with BBB.

BBB offers the following tips to avoid being scammed: 

  • Don’t give out information. Never provide any personal information to unknown callers, including bank information, Social Security Number and contact information.
  • Don’t wire money. Never wire money to unknown individuals.  Wire transfers are untraceable and there is no opportunity to recoup money if you have been scammed.
  • Don’t pay up front.  If you’ve really won a prize, you don’t have to pay anything in advance — not a penny for taxes, fees, or anything else. It’s illegal to charge upfront for a prize.
  • Hang up and don’t call the scammer back. It may be tempting to have the last word, but returning the call could give the con artist information he can use.
  • Report phone scams to the FTC. If you experience telemarketing fraud of any type, report it online to the FTC or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
  • Report scams to BBB. For more on how to avoid scams, or to report a scam, check out BBB Scam Stopper.
  • Get on the Do Not Call registry. It won’t stop scams entirely, but joining the national Do Not Call registry can help reduce the number of unwanted calls you receive.