One of my readers approached me via the Forum to tell me that one of their relatives has just been the victim of a scam involving GreenDot cards, since we in this hobby frequently discuss such tools, and perhaps have cards lying around the house it may be that we are normalizing their usage. Please take the time to check in with your friends and family, particularly in vulnerable demographics so that we might prevent this happening again. Clearly this is not something that might be unique to GreenDot, so please consider a general guideline when discussing these risks. The message below is verbatim:
We all should consider taking some time to talk with our elderly friends and family members about financial scams.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, one of our beloved elderly relatives fell for a $3000 GreenDot scam. Apparently, someone who sounded exactly like his granddaughter called frantic because she had been picked up for a minor offense and thrown in jail. She was terrified and needed immediately help. A very official sounding “lawyer” came on the line and said he could get her released but that he would need bail money. He suggested my elderly relative go to Kroger with a check and buy GreenDot cards and call him back with the numbers. Panicked that his granddaughter was in trouble, my relative did this. The person answering the number the “lawyer” had given him to call answered with “Good Afternoon. XYZ Legal.” My relative gave them the numbers for the $1500 worth of GreenDots he had purchased. Fifteen minutes later they called him back and said they would need another $1500 for administrative fees and court cost. Once again he procured the necessary GreenDot cards and provided the number to them. On the third call for additional funds, he finally became suspicious and contacted the police. Only then did he discover he had been scanned.
I felt terrible. I had warned family members before about such scams but never ever thought anyone could actually fall for “something this obvious”. However apparently the female initiating the call to my elderly relative sounded so much like his granddaughter that he was sure it was, in fact, his granddaughter. That female knew his granddaughter’s name, where she lived, and what she called her grandfather. (All of this information could have been obtained through any number of multi-media channels that his granddaughter uses.) The police told my father that this was a well known particularly devastating scam targeting older individuals, as the perpetrators thoroughly research their victims and know a great deal about them before calling.
I’d like to get the word out that it is imperative that those of us more “sophisticated” about such things actually talk with vulnerable friends and family. Don’t just assume they could never be victimized. We need to insure that they understand that no legitimate business will ever ask for immediate payment via any purchased cash equivalent card (or money order) and that any call of any sort requesting such payment is a scam regardless of how legitimate it may otherwise seem.
Having this conversation may save someone else from a disastrous mistake. I would truly hate to see any one else’s loved ones so traumatized.