Sturgeon Couple Scammed on Cash Card
STURGEON - Lynne and Douglas Thompson thought they were getting a grant. But it didn't take them long to figure out that wasn't the case.
"You sit back and know that you wouldn't do that to somebody and you wonder why they would do that to you because it's hurtful," Lynne Thompson said.
The Thompsons received phone calls from people claiming to be with the Federal Reserve. These people informed them they had been one of 15,000 randomly selected individuals to receive an $8,000 grant. The Thompsons saw this as a lucky break.
"My husband has been seeking ways to maybe venture into his own business, opening up his own shop," Lynne Thompson said. "It just sounded like maybe there was some hope."
So the couple followed the instructions to buy a Green Dot cash card from Walgreens and put $200 on it. She said they did not ask for any personal information.
"There was no way they could get to your personal information, and it was a comfort to know that," Lynne Thompson said. "It made you want to pursue it because they couldn't get to it."
It was the next part of the process that threw the couple off. They were asked to buy another card, this time for $550, so they could get a "PPI." The Thompsons said the caller described this as a type of protection plan.
"We felt at that time it was a scam and felt a little embarrassed," Lynne Thompson said. "So we just backed out of it and came on home."
They still received a call the next day from the same people, but did not answer the phone. The couple lost the initial $200, but could have ended up losing $750.
"In our eyes, it was a lot of money to lose," Lynne Thompson said. "If it ended up being $750, that's several bills. Lights, water, vehicle payment."
Douglas Thompson said they are luckier than some who may have fallen for it.
"We're not like some other people that might have used their last two dollars to do something like that," Douglas Thompson said.
Douglas Thompson is a welder who has been looking to start a business in that field. He said when they bought the card at Walgreens, nobody knew much about the Green Dot cards.
"When we picked up that Green (Dot) card, they said people had been in there and bought the cards. But that's about all they know," Douglas Thompson said.
Mike Harrison, Mid-Missouri's regional director at the Better Business Bureau, said using the Green Dot card as a tool for a scam is common.
"There are several different examples of scams that go around with the Green Dot Moneypak cards," Harrison said. "The end game is the same, where they ask you to put money on the card and send the money to them."
Harrison said once the scammers get the money from the card, it's untraceable.
"It's almost impossible to get that money back," Harrison said. "If you had used a credit or debit card and you got scammed, at least you have something to fall back on. You can contact your bank, let them know you've been scammed so they can either reimburse you or put a hold on the transaction."
As far as a grant goes, Harrison said the government would never do anything like this to award a grant.
"They're never going to reach out and tell you they have a grant available to you," Harrison said. "If you want to apply for a grant, that's what you need to do. You would never have to pay a transaction fee."
Lynne Thompson said the use of stores like Walmart and Walgreens made the situation sound more legitimate.
"Those are places we go daily," Lynne Thompson said. "You don't have issues there any other time you go there."
According to the Thompsons, there were code numbers and pin numbers involved that made it all seem real. But it wasn't.
"Your gut kicks in and you realize grants are supposed to be free in this case," Lynne Thompson said. "Little things build up in your gut and tell you to not do another step. Your instincts kick up."
Now that they have been through this, the couple knows who to blame if it happens again.
"You just have to look at it the first time as shame on you, but the second time as shame on me," Lynne Thompson said.