Wednesday, November 12, 2014

US Federal Grant Scam: Greendot MoneyPak Edition

Last week we shared a blog post about phone scams claiming to have a Warrant For Your Arrest. After sharing some information about that scam, we've been receiving student-generated tips from several of our students about similar phone scams.

US Federal Grant Scam

Today's scam comes to us courtesy of UAB Criminal Justice student Kyle Jones. Kyle works on the Malware Research Team at the UAB Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research.

The scam begins with a phone call, in our case coming from callerid 305.356.9999, claiming that we have been selected to receive a Grant from the Federal Government because of our participation in a survey. Of all the people who have taken this IRS Survey, 1700 people have been selected to receive this grant. The caller then instructs us that we should go to a Western Union location near us and we should call them back once we are at the Western Union for instructions on how to receive our $9,500 grant.

The callback number was (516) 554-0006, which seems to be a New York number in Garden City.

So, we waited a bit and called the criminals back from the Western Union store in my office. (grin).

When we called the 516 number, the line was answered "US Federal Grants" and we were asked for the code that we had been given during the first call. I tried providing a slightly wrong code, and learned that they actually are tracking the codes, because she was unable to look up our information. We provided the correct code and learned that it was "very important that we don't go into the Western Union Store yet!" She then asked me if we were near a grocery store, such as a Seven-11? I told her I had a Publix store nearby but she said that wouldn't work. After some back and forth, we learned that a CVS Pharmacy would work for her needs. She instructed me that I needed me to go to the CVS and buy a GreenDot MoneyPak card for $200.

"You need to put $200 on the card to activate the Money Transfer Control Number, but you will get the $200 back, it will be reimbursed with your grant.

Now, simply let me tell you, you are not going to pay the money to me or to my department. This is your money and it is going to be reimbursed back to you. Before we can transfer the money you have to make a registration with the Federal Reserve Bank and once you make the registration then with the help of the Federal Reserve Bank registration number, I will generate the Money Transfer Control Number so that you can receive your money from the Western Union Store."

Here's the audio clip of that part . . .

(audio)How it works - the woman at US Federal Grants, who sometimes claimed this grant was from the IRS, tells us we need to pay a $200 registration fee.

She then "transferred us" to the Federal Reserve Bank as you can hear with this link.

(audio)Transferred to the Federal Reserve Bank - Kevin Jones, manager of the Federal Reserve Bank took my call and helped me.

Kevin was good enough to explain the whole process of how to purchase a GreenDot MoneyPak card for $200 so that I could "within 5 minutes" pick up my $10,000 - (the $9800 grant + $200 reimbursement for my registration) - from the Western Union Counter. Here's the audio of him explaining it to us:

(audio)The GreenDot MoneyPak Process - as explained by the Federal Reserve Bank's Kevin Jones

What To Do if you are a US Federal Grant Scam victim

  • The Best Place to report any type of online scam is the FBI's Internet Crime & Complaint Center. To go directly to their complaint page, use this link:

    Although the form has many questions that you may not be able to answer, complete the form to the best of your ability with the information you DO know. Specifically make sure to note things such as:

    • What name did the person use?
    • Did they call you by name?
    • What agency, department, or company did they claim to be with?
    • How much money did they want you to pay?
    • What number(s) shows up in your callerid?
    • Did they give you any other numbers to call or websites to visit?
    Even if you do not have ALL of this information, any information you share can help link cases together. If someone calling Houston and someone calling Birmingham both told you to call the same phone number, that is a "link". If they used the same Officer Name, that is another "link". The more individual cases we can link together, the better chance we have of catching the criminals!

  • IF YOUR SCAM MENTIONS THE IRS, be sure to report the crime to the investigators at the Department of Treasury who have set up a special website for gathering information about this scam:

  • IF YOU HAVE LOST MONEY in your case, be sure to ALSO report this as a crime to your local Police Department!
Thank you for reading! Please share this link with your friends, family, and co-workers for their awareness! If you have a story you would like to share, please use the Comment form below!

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Trying a new setting. After turning on comments, I got about 20-30 comments per day that were all link spam. Sorry to require login, but the spam was too much.