Police investigate phone calls leading to theft of thousands - WKRN News 2

Police investigate phone calls leading to theft of thousands of dollars


Metro police are warning people about a scam that's already netted dozens of victims and tends to target the elderly.

Police told News 2 suspects will call or email their targets pretending to be from law enforcement agencies and utility companies.

They tell the target that they owe several hundred dollars and face arrest or loss of their utilities unless they make a payment using a Green Dot MoneyPak card.

The target is told to purchase the card, load it with the demanded amount of money and then give the person that contacted them the 14 digit number on the back.

Once the crook has that number, they withdraw the money off the MoneyPak card, load it onto a prepaid debit card and then get cash from an ATM.

Police said the crooks "spoof" the phone numbers of actual law enforcement agencies and other businesses so on the target's caller ID it looks like that is who is calling them.

"If the victim is in Nashville the criminal may be in Houston, Honolulu or Hong Kong, so they can be anywhere in the world," Lt. Grant Carroll said. "Suspects like this type of scam because a suspect can go to a retailer, get the prepaid credit card with $20 cash and there is no ID required that will link the suspect to that credit card."

The elderly and others who do not have a lot of experience with banks are the most common victims.

Khurshid Ismoilov told News 2 that a man called his store claiming to be from NES and demanded payment of an electric bill.

"I went and got the MoneyPak card and paid the money," Ismoilov said.

He realized later it was not NES and reported it to police.

NES is aware of the phone calls and posted a warning to customers on it official web site.

Police said the crooks have stolen thousands of dollars at a time from victims.

"Once someone falls prey to this one time the con artist will continue to call the victim," Lt. Carroll said.  

Lt. Carroll said people should always verify that the person on the line is actually from the business they claim to be calling from. He said most reputable businesses will also not demand payment with a MoneyPak card over the phone.

"A way to avoid being a victim of this is to apply common sense and remember no legitimate agency is going to ask for the 14 digit code," Lt. Carroll said. "If you receive a phone call from a utility or from a law enforcement agency and they are asking for payment and you are not sure you should call that agency."

MoneyPak also has a warning on the back of its card. It said also has a warning on the back of its card. It warns users to never give out the 14 digit code to businesses that are not listed on the company web site.

The company said if you lose your money because you gave it to a person who was not listed on the company Web site it will not be replaced.

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