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CO - OP LIVI NG


Local co-op members are scammed by “Green-Dot Prepaid Card” talk


By Anna Politano A


t least three local electric co-op members in Oklahoma have recently received an odd phone call. For some, it was a costly call. The scenario: the caller indentifi es himself as someone collecting money on behalf of a local electric cooperative and urges the co-op member to buy a “Green-Dot Prepaid card” or else their power will be disconnected. The scam was fi rst brought to the attention of local electric cooperatives in Oklahoma when East Central Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (ECOEC), located in Okmulgee, Okla., had a member come by the co-op inquiring about a $100 payment she had made.


According to Tamara Hawkins, ECOEC’s man- ager of offi ce services, the victim was a Hispanic woman who received an evening phone call from someone speaking to her in Spanish. The caller identifi ed himself as “Robert Maroc” and stated he


was calling on behalf of ECOEC. He proceeded to tell the co-op member that ECOEC was sending a truck to disconnect power unless she was willing to purchase a Green-Dot Prepaid card to pay her electric bill. He also told her she could not use Visa prepaid cards to pay her electric bill. The member— who happened to be late on her bill—went to a local Walgreens store and purchased a $100 Green-Dot Prepaid card.


The Green-Dot Prepaid Card essentially works like a Pay-Pal account; once the card is purchased— for whatever amount—it can then be accessed with a PIN number, and funds transferred or debited to an account. The member called the 918 area code num- ber back and made the payment. In return, she re- ceived a confi rmation code. The next day she went to ECOEC to confi rm they had received the payment and to pay the remainder of her bill. To her disap- pointment, ECOEC had no record of her payment. “We have never called a member to say that we have a truck on its way to cut off power,” Hawkins


said. “When dealing with delinquent accounts, we fi rst send a cutoff notice with their bill. We also call the member with an automated call two or three days before they’re subject to disconnection.” For peace of mind, Hawkins said one of the fi rst steps she took was to verify that the co-op’s billing system was secure and had not been violated. To her relief, ECOEC’s system was intact.


Hawkins, who has been with ECOEC for 18 years, said that most legitimate utilities don’t require a customer to pay with a certain type of card nor do they require the customer to react immediately to a late payment notice.


“We instructed our member to report the scam to the Attorney General’s offi ce.


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JULY 2012 7


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