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Better Business Bureau Issues Scam Alert


BRADENTON – The Better Business Bureau of West Florida is warning consumers in Florida about a bill payment scam that is targeting utility customers, as well as another involving MoneyPak transfers. The West Florida BBB offered the following tips on how cosumers could protect themselves from being defrauded by scammers.

Individuals and businesses have reported receiving telephone calls that claim their electricity will be turned off within hours unless they make an immediate payment by a prepaid debit card, such as the Green Dot Money Card available at retailers nationwide.

“This scam is targeting electric customers today. Tomorrow, scammers could target cable customers or natural gas customers," said Karen Nalven, President of BBB Serving West Florida.

“That’s why it is important to increase awareness about payment scams in general so that customers understand the red flags and know what to do,” added Nalven.

The BBB has advice for utility customers:

  •     Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.
  •     Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who calls or emails you.
  •     Never wire money or provide debit or credit card numbers to someone you do not know.
  •     Call the number on your utility company bill to find out if there is a problem with your account.

“Since November, we’ve received reports from about 80 customers who have been contacted by these scam artists. Many of the victims are small business owners,” said Tom Cunningham, Duke Energy payments manager.

Duke Energy offers customers a number of payment options, including online, by phone, by automatic bank draft, by mail or in person.

According to Cunningham, Duke Energy never contacts customers to demand a prepaid debit card payment to avoid an immediate service disconnection.

“We urge all of our customers to hang up and contact us directly if they receive such a scam call,” added Cunningham.

Contact numbers in FL include:

Duke Energy Florida Customers – 800-700-8744
Progress Energy Florida Customers – 800-700-8744

The BBB alsow warned consumers to beware of scammers using the Green Dot MoneyPak prepaid cards you can purchase at local stores. Using a prepaid card is a convenient way to pay bills online without threat of risk to your bank account. But scammers have found a way to get that money from you too! Green Dot spokesman states, “Fraudsters will call or email you saying that you won a lottery or can buy discount merchandise at their phony websites – but you need to pay fees to get your prize or purchase that merchandise via MoneyPak –and only MoneyPak, then they ask for the 14-digit code.” Once you have given them that code – the crooks can then transfer your MoneyPak funds to their own prepaid cards.

MoneyPak offers these 7 tips to help protect you from fraud!

  •     Never give your MoneyPak number to someone you don’t know.
  •     Never give receipt information about your MoneyPak purchase to another party.
  •     Use your MoneyPak only to reload your prepaid cards or accounts you control.
  •     Refuse any offer that asks you to buy a MoneyPak and share the number or receipt information by email or phone.
  •     To use your MoneyPak with PayPal or eBay or other online merchants, transfer the money to your PayPal account before you pay the merchant. Don’t email your MoneyPak number directly to any merchant.
  •     Don’t use the MoneyPak to pay taxes or fees to claim “winnings” on a foreign lottery or prize promotion. Unless it’s an approved MoneyPak partner, don’t use MoneyPak for any offer that requires you to pay before you get the item.
  •     Check this list of approved MoneyPak partners before you use your MoneyPak to pay.

To avoid falling for MoneyPak scams, consumers should:

  •     Be wary of websites or Craigslist advertisements linking to websites where customers are specifically asked to pay with a MoneyPak card.
  •     Never give thier MoneyPak number to someone they don't know.
  •     Remember that advance-fee loan offers are illegal and targeted at customers and companies struggling with debt and poor credit.
  •     Remember that if you're told you have to pay a fee --via MoneyPak or wire transfer -- to collect a cash prize or sweepstakes winnings, you're being scammed.
  •     Avoid offers that don't accept credit card payments and require you to purchase a MonryPak and provide the card number via email or by phone.
  •     Beware of website requesting MoneyPak as a form of payment even if they display the MoneyPak or Green Dot Logo.  Consumers should check www.moneypak.com for a list of approved MoneyPak partners.
  •     Treat MoneyPak cards like cash.  Unlike credit cards, MoneyPak transactions can never be reversed.


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