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CONSUMER ALERT: AVOID SCAMS INVOLVING PREPAID DEBIT CARDS

LITTLE ROCK - For years, con artists have used wire transfers as a mechanism for separating consumers from their hard-earned money. Now, though, scammers are increasingly using reloadable debit cards in their schemes to extract funds.

Dozens of Arkansans have lost money in the last few months after sending account information from their prepaid debit cards to con artists. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert today to warn consumers to use caution when being asked to send payments via the cards, such as Green Dot MoneyPaks.

MoneyPaks are easy choices for scammers because they do not need the card itself to access the money loaded onto it. Fraudsters simply ask consumers for the number listed on the back of the card, then use that number to draw down the account. The transactions are difficult to trace and it is almost impossible for victims to get their money back.

"Prepaid debit cards work just like cash, so scammers see the cards as an easy way to take money from an unsuspecting victim," McDaniel said. "Consumers should never acquire a MoneyPak card because they have been told they won a sweepstakes, and they should be very cautious when using the cards to purchase merchandise from someone on the Internet."

MoneyPak scams sometime involve promises of sweepstakes winnings, if only the "winner" pay an advance fee by loading money onto the card and providing account information to a scammer. In another common scam, the con artist poses as a friend or relative in a bind and in need of money quickly. Other types of MoneyPak scams are tied to sales of nonexistent merchandise on Internet classified and auction websites. In some instances, consumers who have responded to loan offers have been asked to pay advance fees on MoneyPak cards, but they never receive loans.

Green Dot, the company that issues MoneyPak cards, advises consumers to protect the cards just as they would their cash and their wallets. MoneyPak transactions, unlike credit card transactions, cannot be reversed.

McDaniel advised consumers to keep these tips in mind:

*Never give a MoneyPak number to an unknown individual.

*Refuse any offer that would require the purchase of a MoneyPak and the sharing of the MoneyPak number or receipt information with someone else, either by telephone or email.

*Do not email a MoneyPak number directly to any merchant, and beware of websites that specifically ask for payment via MoneyPak.

*Be wary of using a MoneyPak card for any offer that requires payment before an item is received.

For more information about these types of scams, or for other consumer tips and resources, visit the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org. Also, the Consumer Protection Division can be reached by phone, (800) 482-8982.

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