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(NBC News: Bob Hansen) – There’s a new consumer warning: Pre-paid cards are a new target for scammers, and the bad guys will stoop pretty low with threats and lies to separate you from your money.
It could be any neighborhood in any town. If you pick up the phone, a scam artist could be on the other end of the line trying to trick you out of your money.
"There's a confidence, and isn't that the name of the game, there's a confidence that the consumer has that it's a legitimate transaction," says Tom Di Zinno.
The National City detective is talking about the confidence people have using prepaid credit cards they buy from the store. In this case, it's a card called a "Green Dot MoneyPak."
"They're a great convenience for people who don't have credit," Di Zinno says.
But they are also a great convenience for scam artists who want your money.
"They have replaced money grams and money orders in the scam world."
That's because people are wise to scammers asking you to wire money. Instead, they ask for a prepaid card; it works just like money, and all they need to take it are the numbers on the back of the card.
So how do the bad guys get you to play along? They pretend to be the power company.
"They'll call businesses and say, ‘you're behind in your bill; you need to pay immediately.’"
Allison Zaragoza with San Diego Gas & Electric says, “SDG & E would never call you proactively to ask for information."
Yet they know scammers are calling homes and business across the country trying to trick people into buying the green dot cards and handing over the MoneyPak number on the back.
"And if somebody is in that position where they are late in their payment, or they are about to be shut off, we would actually give you that information in writing beforehand, not give you a phone call," Zaragoza says.
But it's not just pretending to be the power company to steal your money; in some cases, they are claiming to have a bomb in your business. And they're going to set it off unless you pay up.
"You've got a bomb in that building; we've got somebody watching the building, if you don't pay this money on a Green Dot card, they're going to detonate the bomb."
But of course it's also a lie, an evil scam designed to get you to hand over your money, whether it's cash, a money order or a prepaid card the results are the same.
"Your money is gone once they actually take those numbers and process them.”