City of Ukiah, California

Police Department

Safety · Professionalism · Community Service

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Green Dots, Mystery Shoppers and Funny Money

“I just knew it was too good to be true,” victims say as they shake their heads in disbelief.

If you read no further, please read this: our best tool in deterring and preventing scams and other crimes is our instincts. If you think something is wrong, it probably is.

Recently, scams have been on the rise in Ukiah, so I thought I’d tell everyone about some of the details, so you and your loved ones don’t fall prey to people trying to take advantage of you.

Green Dot Cards:

Our police officers have been working on several cases in which people are contacted and told they have won a prize or money—or more frequently, that they are late paying a utility or other important bill. The victims are told that to receive their winnings or avoid having their service stopped, they’ll need to go a local retail outlet and place a certain amount of money on a Green Dot MoneyPak card (a prepaid money card).

The unsuspecting person is then instructed to provide the caller with the number on the card, giving the con artist the information he needs to get the money. Once a victim places money on the Green Dot card and gives the number on the card to someone else, the other person has full access to the money, and that money is lost forever.

Although these cards were designed to allow for quick and easy money transfers, they are also attractive to scam artists because of this feature to quickly transfer money. In fact, this feature has become so attractive in scams that the Green Dot Company announced that they would stop selling these cards by March of this year.

Although we hope these cards will soon disappear, they are still out there; so please be careful.

Mystery Shoppers:

Have you heard that you can get paid to shop, as a mystery shopper or secret shopper? Maybe you have received unsolicited emails or seen newspaper ads that claim you can earn a living as a secret or mystery shopper by dining at elegant restaurants, shopping at pricey stores, or checking into luxurious hotels. Consumer Fraud Reporting says that if you have, please beware of scams.

It is true that some retailers hire marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of service in their stores, but now scammers are using newspaper ads and emails to create the impression that they have lucrative mystery shopper jobs to offer.

Scammers try to sell a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job. But the truth is, there is no real certification for this type of job, and the list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free. Legitimate mystery shopper jobs are posted on the Internet for free. Check with www.consumerfraudreporting.org/secretshopperscams to obtain more information.

Funny Money:

Although the use of counterfeit currency comes and goes, we’ve recently seen an uptick in attempts to pass counterfeit currency here in Ukiah. The most common of these counterfeit currencies are twenty and one hundred dollar bills.

Knowing how to detect a counterfeit can mean all the difference. Today scammers have become very sophisticated in their ability to counterfeit currency, and knowing how to detect a counterfeit can mean be the difference between getting paid and getting nothing. The Secret Service maintains an excellent website to help people understand real and counterfeit currency at www.secretservice.gov/know_your_money. Merchants can use this site to train their staffs on detecting counterfeit money.

Finally, as I said at the beginning, please remember that our best tool in deterring and preventing crimes is our instincts. If you think something is wrong or a scam, it probably is. Please call and check before acting.

As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications, by clicking the Nixle button on our website www.ukiahpolice.com. 


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Safety · Professionalism · Community Service