Financial scam targets local Latinos
Thanks to an elaborate financial scam, one Savannah Latina is a little poorer but a lot wiser today.
Last month, Dora Jara-Cruz called the police after being cheated out of approximately $1200.
“A friend of mine where I work told me about a company in New York that helps Latinos pay their bills,” she told La Voz. “This company offers to pay thirty percent of things like your power bill, your light bill, and your car insurance if you agree to pay the other seventy percent through them. It sounded like a great deal so three ladies in my office signed up for this service.”
Jara-Cruz stated that around January 15th, she spoke by phone with an associate from this company, a Hispanic female who called herself "Amanda."
"Amanda told me that she was from the Dominican Republic,” Jara-Cruz said. "Amanda told me that in order to receive their services, I would have to call them with the account number on the bill, the company who sent the bill and the telephone number of that company. They told me that after the bill was "paid," that I could call the billing company the next day to confirm that the payment was made.”
In order to receive assistance with her bills, Jara-Cruz was told to purchase a "MoneyPak" card from Walgreens for which she paid $5. MoneyPak is an easy and convenient way to send money today. Once you purchase it at a participating retailer, you can “load” the card with up to $500 cash (up to $1000 at Walmart) and use the funds to pay bills or transfer money to other accounts.
“In order to pay my $250 power bill to Georgia Power, I was instructed to put $170 on the moneypak card,” Jara-Cruz said. “Then Amanda told me to scratch off the bottom of the card in order to retrieve the card number. She then asked me for the card number and I gave it to her over the
phone. Her company then took access of the $170 from the card.”
Jara-Cruz told the police that she did this with three bills (Georgia Power, Direct TV and Progressive Car Insurance). “About one month later, I learned that all the money I had loaded on my card was gone,” she said. “ All together, I lost about $1200 including late payment fees.”
According to the moneypak website: “You should treat the money on the MoneyPak the same way you treat the cash in your wallet. Once the MoneyPak is lost there is no way for us to trace and recover the money.”
Rather than simply ignore her when Jara-Cruz called Amanda to complain, the fraudulent company added one more layer of lies to their scam.
“They told me that they were not going to give her any money back but told me that they had a partnership with Best Buy and that I could pick out any television, computer or other item and they would cover its cost,” Jara-Cruz said. “I then picked out a laptop whose cost equaled about the amount that they owed me. When I gave them the Best Buy reference number for my merchandise, they told me it would be delivered in 15-20 days. I waited for over 30 days and still have not received the computer.
Not surprisingly, Amanda and her company are no longer answering Jara-Cruz's phone calls.
“I know I'm not going to get my money back but I just wanted to make a police report so other people would be careful and not fall for this scam like I did,” Jara-Cruz stated.
Police are actively investigating this case and believe at least one additional occurrence of this fraud has been uncovered. If you have any information, you are encouraged to contact Sgt. Alex Tobar with the Savannah Metropolitan Police Department. He can be reached at 912-351-3400.