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Consumer Corner: Treat prepaid debit cards like cash

Prepaid debit cards have become popular ways to pay bills over the phone or order things online without using a credit card. However, these cards have also become the target for scam artists looking for quick access to your money.

Unlike credit cards, transactions on prepaid debit cards are hard to reverse or track once the money has been sent from your card. This makes them a popular method for scam artists to have you send them money, leaving you with no way to get it back. Sending someone money through a prepaid debit card is just like sending cash.

Our office has received an increasing number of complaints of scams using these prepaid cards as the vehicle for ripping off Kansans from their hard-earned dollars. Oftentimes, these scams come in the form of a phone call informing you that you have won a sweepstakes or lottery. They will then ask you to purchase a prepaid debit card, available at almost any convenience or discount store, to cover the fees. Next, they want you to give them the card number and access code, allowing the instant access to the money you put on the card.

The FBI also recently issued an alert that scam artists have been calling retail businesses using bomb threats to extort money by prepaid debit cards. The callers warn the business that a bomb has been placed on their premises and unless a certain amount of money is loaded onto a prepaid card, the device will be detonated. The FBI reports that no actual explosives have been found at any of the locations where the calls have been received.

Here are a few tips to keep you safe from these scams:

  • Report any threats of explosives or violence immediately to local law enforcement officials.
  • You should never have to pay fees to claim a prize that you have “won.”
  • Never give out account numbers over the phone to someone you do not know, including prepaid card numbers, credit card numbers or bank account numbers.
  • If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be skeptical and ask a lot of questions.
  • Ask telemarketers to send you information on their product or service by mail so you can consider all your options and make informed decisions.

Remember, the Kansas Lottery is the only legally operating lottery in the State of Kansas, and officials from the Kansas Lottery will never ask you for money up front in order to claim a prize.

Consumers who think they may have been a victim of a prepaid debit card scam should contact our Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-432-2310 or file a complaint online at www.ag.ks.gov.