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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Thursday, July 11, 2013

Avoid these 3 money transfer scams

By Clark Howard

There's a new variation on the classic Western Union money transfer scam involving one particular brand of prepaid debit cards.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports people are getting scammed by con artists who get them to go into the drug store, a Wal-Mart or a convenience store to buy what's called a Green Dot MoneyPak.

MoneyPak offers a method of using a stored value card to reload other prepaid cards, add money to a PayPal account without a bank account and also make same-day payments to major companies.

So here's how this rip-off has been playing out: You're buying something online or you're told you won a sweepstakes and need to pay a transmittal fee. A crook would try to tell you to remit payment (in the first instance) or load a delivery/processing fee (in the second instance) on your Green Dot card.

Then the crook would ask you for the code off the card (the activation number). Within seconds of giving that info up, all the money is stripped off the card. The payments are untraceable and Green Dot will not issue you a refund.

If a crook approaches you with this kind of request, your answer is no. Ditto if you're told you won a big sweepstakes. Do not have any further contact with the criminal. Just drop them like a hot potato.

Other forms of you transferring money when you're buying something can be suspect too, like paying by electronic check, wiring money, revealing your checking account routing number, or your debit account routing info.