A common tool used by scamsters to send money around the world without a trace is about to meet its end.
For years, people have been scammed by con artists who get them to go into the drug store, a Wal-Mart, or a convenience store to buy what's called a Green Dot MoneyPak.
How the MoneyPak scam works
MoneyPak offers a method of using a stored value card to reload other prepaid cards, add money to a PayPal account without a bank account, and also make same-day payments to major companies.
So here's how this rip-off has been playing out: You're buying something online or you're told you won a sweepstakes and need to pay a transmittal fee. A crook would try to tell you to remit payment (in the first instance) or load a delivery/processing fee (in the second instance) on your Green Dot card.
Then the crook would ask you for the code off the card (the activation number). Within seconds of giving that info up, all the money is stripped off the card. The payments are untraceable and Green Dot will not issue you a refund.
If a crook approaches you with this kind of request, your answer is no. Ditto if you're told you won a big sweepstakes. Do not have any further contact with the criminal. Just drop them like a hot potato.
GreenDot is a completely legit product that's been perverted by the crooks. So now, after years of problems, the GreenDot people are discontinuing the MoneyPak -- but not for another half-year or so. So you've still got to be on your guard through the remainder of this year and part of the next one too.
That said, other forms of you transferring money when you're buying something can be suspect too. Examples of that include paying by electronic check, wiring money, revealing your checking account routing number, or your debit account routing info.
Be careful out there!