CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Just as Powerball fever heats up, a new lottery scam is making the rounds. It threatens to steal from actual lottery winners. And it uses a re-loadable prepaid cash card available at most chain drug stores to do it.
NBC Charlotte cameras were on hand Thursday morning to actually record and confront the scammer in action. That doesn’t happen very often.
Here’s how the new lottery scam works: a caller from phone number 876-585-6469, identified by the FTC as a Jamaican number, calls lottery winners who have already claimed prizes of $1,000 to $1,500.
The caller says the winners have actually won much more in a second-chance grand prize. Paula Recker, of Charlotte, who won $1,000 on a Holiday Millions scratch-off, got a call the day after the NC Education Lottery posted news of her prize on its website online. The caller said she’d won $2.5 million in the secondary drawing and a 2013 Mercedes Benz.
There was a catch.
The caller asked Recker to go to a chain drug store mentioning CVS, Walgreens or Rite-Aid by name, and pick up a Green Dot MoneyPak card, again, mentioning the prepaid card by name. Green Dot issues a bold alert on the back of its cards warning customers to only use the card with merchants listed on its website and denying any responsibility “if a criminal gets your money.”
You can load as little as $20 on the card and as much as $500 for a fee of $4.95.
The caller asked Recker for the high end-- $499, to pay “taxes” on the Mercedes.
Here’s a hint: taxes on a new Mercedes are a lot more than five hundred bucks. And the NC Education Lottery, the BBB and the NC Attorney General repeatedly warn consumers never to send money for a lottery prize; it’s a sure tip off you’re about to be taken.
Nonetheless, the AG reports five complaints of this same scam in the last few months-- the lottery reports a sixth such complaint of a woman with a Jamaican accent calling from a Jamaican phone number to offer a huge prize if only the winner would call with the account number listed on the back of the prepaid card.
One winner actually sent in the $500.