The Better Business Bureau is working with Western Union to cut down on money being wired in international scams. But the con-artists have found another way to get your cash through a pre-paid card known as Green Dot MoneyPak cards.
An elderly Mitchell man learned how they work too late.
Ken Schonebaum defies his age. He still runs his own carpet cleaning business after 60 years. But even this spry 89 year old wasn't prepared for what some scammers threw at him.
"There was a drawing of some sort that I was supposed to have won $120,000," Schonebaum said.
The caller said he won a Bank of America drawing and since he has a Bank of America card, he thought it was possible.
"Your name was called because you always pay all your utility bills on time at the end of the month," Schonebaum said.
The next day he got another call from someone claiming to be an "immigration officer," and that Schonebaum had actually won $8 million. They just needed him to go buy a MoneyPak card at Walgreens and load $325 on it, convincing him that would somehow "verify" his prize.
"I'd gladly exchange $325 for $8 million you know," Schonebaum said while laughing.
And Schonebaum was assured by the caller this was no scam.
"He kept reminding me, 'That $325 on the card that's your money. We're not going to take that card from you. That's still going to be your money. We're going to use it for identification,'" Schonebaum said.
That "identification" was the numbers on the back of the card. Once Schonebaum gave them the number, they immediately drained the card.
"These are just like cash. Just like you would never give a stranger $300 in cash to hold on for you, we always tell people never give the numbers," Jesse Schmidt of the Better Business Bureau said.
The problem is, Schonebaum was drawn too deeply into the scam. The men told him they were on their way to Mitchell with the cash, but he would need to buy a second MoneyPak card first. Schonebaum may have been blinded by what he saw was a chance to help family.
"I do have a sister that has cancer in one eye and her husband has Alzheimer’s and they're in destitute, bad need of money. I could help them out with it," Schonebaum said.
After they drained his second card of another $325, the men never showed up with his big prize.
"Looking back on it now, I should have been smarter. These calls were coming from Jamaica," Schonebaum said.
"All they need is a few people. $650 goes a long way in Jamaica," Schmidt said.
In all, Schonebaum is out the $650 he put on the cards and another $10 he paid to get them. He really did not understand how the MoneyPak cards worked and that's what scammers are counting on, which is why they often prey on the elderly.