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Pre-paid debit cards warning

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A warning tonight about pre-paid debit card offers. Multiple mailings from several different companies are showing up in some people's mailboxes.  

Concern that a scheme is phishing for victims through the mail, prompted Bob Beukema to call 12 to alert others. He showed us numerous offers for prepaid debit cards addressed to his home and others with his neighbors' addresses, but all bearing the name of unknown people. 

"I've gotten 5 of them now: 3 from TurboTax, 1 from Western Union and 1 from Rush Card. I called my other neighbors and there are a total of 20 on the table that have come from 4 houses and the neighbor next door had already disposed of theirs but they had gotten 5," Bob said. 

Typically, prepaid cards require the user to put money on the card and you spend only what's loaded on the card. These mailings include a direct deposit form and an 800 number. Bob believes the sender will snag some victims because people will call to find out why a fictitious name is attached to their address. He called but didn't give up any information. 

"I said to them, ‘I want to stop this card. It has the wrong name on it.' She said, ‘Give me your social security number.' I said, ‘I am not going to give you my social security number. I don't know who you people are.' I said, ‘I'm calling to stop a card, not open an account.' She said, ‘That's OK. Give me your social security number.' I said, ‘I'm not. I don't want to do business with you people.' She said, ‘Well, just dispose of the card,'" Bob told us.    

The Better Business Bureau is urging anyone who gets one to shred it, rip it up, and don't call. 

"If the first thing they're going to ask when you haven't even given them your name is asking for your social security number, they're going for the kill right there," said Tom Gallagher with the BBB. "These folks are professionals. They can go in, find out what you got, where you have that information and they'll be able to strip your account." 

On legitimate debit cards look out for activation fees, monthly fees, customer service fees, ATM and cancellation fees. Remember, public flack over fees caused the Kardashians to cancel their endorsement of a prepaid card marketed to young consumers. Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons lowered fees on his Rush Card recently, and personal finance guru Suze Orman caught heat for introducing her own card with a fee. Fees can add up to a few hundred dollars a year on these types of cards. 

"If you didn't order it and you don't want anything to do with the thing, cut it up," Gallagher said. 

Before you sign up for a prepaid debit card make sure it's legit. If it is, make sure you understand the fees. If you have a complaint, email dwalker@nbc12.com. And then contact the Federal Trade Commission at: 1-877-438-4338 or www.ftc.gov. You can reach the Better Business Bureau at:  804-648-0016. 

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