First Posted: 4/21/2015
On Saturday, Dec. 27, Kyle Casey of Ashley found himself frantically searching for tickets to the winner-take-all AFC North championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.
Instead, the lifelong Steelers fan wound up on the losing end of a scammer-take-all con game.
Casey, 25, and three of his buddies had been all set to attend the Dec. 28 Heinz Stadium showdown and had even booked a hotel room when their original tickets fell through.
Casey immediately went online, combed through Craigslist and found four last-minute tickets on sale “due to a family emergency.” Better still, these were awesome seats – ground level, third row, 50-yard line, and the seller would take “any reasonable offer.” Woo-hoo! Casey high-fived his buddies and contacted the seller. She got back to him within 20 minutes.
“Hi, it’s Jessica!”
Texting back and forth, Jessica and Casey agreed on a price of $650 for four electronic tickets she promised to email him through the Ticketmaster web site. She texted what appeared to be an online Ticketmaster receipt, issued to “Jessica Rosenberg.”
“You can make payment at CVS via GreenDot MoneyPak,” she instructed. “Please be sure to purchase the actual MoneyPak, and not the prepaid card by Greendot … I’ll be waiting for your call.”
Giddy over his good luck, Casey drove to the local CVS and paid cash for the MoneyPak, all the while chatting with Jessica. She was disappointed she couldn’t attend such an important game for the Steelers, but her husband and daughter were sick and she had to take care of them.
When Casey got back to his car, he followed Jessica’s directions to scratch off the strip on the back of the MoneyPak card and read her the numbers. Thanks, she told him. I’ll email the tickets now. Enjoy the game!
“She took the money and never sent me the tickets,” said Casey.
Over and over, he tried calling, emailing, and texting Jessica. No response. Heart sinking, Casey realized he’d been duped.
He called GreenDot, the company that issues the MoneyPak. A customer service rep advised him to file a dispute but refused his request for a refund, citing the big red warning on the card: “Treat your MoneyPak like cash. Lost/stolen protections don’t apply…. If anyone else asks for your MoneyPak number … it’s a scam.”
According to spokesman Brian Ruby, although GreenDot will not give refunds for “victim-assisted fraud,” the company does not blame the victim.
“Those scammers are convincing,” he said. “I’ve seen some doozies.”
Ruby explained that MoneyPak was designed for the “unbanked,” who find the cards convenient for paying bills online, reloading prepaid debit cards, and funding their PayPal accounts. Because MoneyPaks have become a widespread tool for fraudsters, however, they will soon be replaced by prepaid debit cards, which require proof of identity.
Ruby said it’s possible for police to track down “Jessica.” To access the cash, she had to go to GreenDot’s web site and using the numbers Casey gave her, transfer the funds to a debit card linked to her true identity.
“If law enforcement pursues the case, we will provide them with the transaction data,” Ruby said.
Casey filed a report with the Ashley Borough Police Department, where a sergeant borrowed his cell phone and texted “Jessica” with his name and rank: “Call me immediately … to avoid further prosecution,” he wrote.
When she didn’t call back, the complaint was marked “Closed – no further action.”
“I don’t know what to do,” said Casey, who is employed as a carpenter. “I work hard for my money and it’s just not fair.”