LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles Police Department issued a warning to the public regarding a recent rash of phone scams involving reloadable debit cards.

According to police, victims have been contacted by a caller who claims to work for a utility company in need of collecting a past-due payment.

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The victim is further informed that if the overdue bill is paid using a prepaid card, specifically GreenDot or MoneyPak, they can avoid having their utility service disconnected, officials said.

Authorities claim that the caller instructs the victim to purchase one of these reloadable cards for a specified amount and provides a return phone number to call once its purchased.

During the second phone call, the victim is instructed to scratch off and read the serial number to the caller, police said.

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According to officials, once the caller has obtained the serial number to the victim’s card, they are able to transfer the funds into their own prepaid account.

Police have offered some crime prevention tips to help avoid becoming a victim to this scam:

  • Never give personal or financial information to an unsolicited caller or email.
  • Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.
  • Utility companies and government agencies will never contact you demanding immediate payment by GreenDot or MoneyPak.
  • Remember that anyone who has the number on a GreenDot or MoneyPak has access to the funds on your card.
  • Never wire money, provide debit or credit card numbers or GreenDot and MoneyPak numbers to a stranger.

Although these prepaid cards are part of a recent scam, police say that both GreenDot and MoneyPak are legitimate products when used for the right reason.

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Anyone with information or questions regarding this crime is asked to contact the Commercial Crimes Division at (213) 527-3247 or (877) 527-3247.