Ali Iqpal said con artists stole thousands of dollars from his 7-11, and they did it without ever stepping foot inside his store.
"They did target me. That's what I know,” said the small business owner.
Iqpal believes he practically had a bulls-eye on his back after a con artist made away with $2,000 from his Milford convenience store.
"When you lose $2,000 in one night and you make that much in 15 or 20 days, of course you get angry,” he said.
It started with a phone call from someone claiming to be calling from 7-11’s corporate offices. The voice on the other line told Iqpal the Green Dot Moneypak cards he sells in his stores were not working. Customers buy the cards for cash and use them to reload Green Dot’s other prepaid debit cards.
"She was well trained. She knew what she was doing,” remembered Iqpal.
The called had him load several Moneypak cards with cash—four times, each for $500. She then asked for the scratch-off serial number on the back of the card.
"Once you provide that number, it's just like you giving that card to that person. They have access to the money that was loaded onto it. And they can take that money and load it onto another account," said Jeffrey Nielsen of the Milford Police Department.
But before Iqpal realized it was all a con, the money was gone. The clincher? Moneypak cards don’t have fraud protection. The company’s website reads “If you give your Moneypak number to a criminal, Green Dot is not responsible to pay you back. Your Moneypak is not a bank account.”
Police said these cards are becoming scammer’s preferred method of payment, instead of the usual wire transfer tricks. The schemes are popping up all over the place, and businesses of all sizes have had to be on the lookout. Scammers aren’t just targeting the companies—they’re going after customers as well.
"We don't want them to take advantage of our customers,” said CL&P Spokesman Mitch Gross.
Gross said his company recently warned customers of a “Green Dot” card scam targeting utility company customers across the country. The callers warn people their power would be shut off if they didn’t pay with a Green Dot card over the phone.
"We're asking customers to be smart, ask questions and be skeptical,” said Gross.
Moral of the story: these con artists are getting more sophisticated—finding new ways to get their hands on your cash. We reached out to the Green Dot Corporation who in a statement said, “Green Dot has partnered with the Consumer Federation of America in our commitment to educate consumers about how to avoid being victimized. We urge consumers to protect their MoneyPak number just as they would cash and remind customers to only use MoneyPak with approved partners."
The company warns people never to give out the serial number on the backs of the cards. And finally, even if the caller sounds legitimate, call your utility company, or in Iqpal’s case, corporate headquarters directly to verify what’s happening.
“I definitely learned my lesson,” said Iqpal.
Fortunately for Iqpal, Milford Police tell NBC Connecticut they have a suspect and are close to making an arrest in his case. Police believe the suspect targeted several convenience stores in Connecticut and Massachusetts with similar schemes.