A St. Petersburg woman is the latest victim of what investigators are calling the Green Dot Moneypack Scam.
Police spokesman Michael Puetz said a caller told the 84-year-old woman she missed jury duty and needed to post an $8,000 bond immediately.
Then she lost another $5,000.
"She got a second phone call from the same man saying that there was a mistake and that her bond was actually higher than anticipated," Puetz explained.
In both of those cases, and many others, the caller wants the victim to buy a Green Dot Moneypack card, which are widely available prepaid debit cards.
The call from a fake clerk of the court about missed jury duty is the latest variation of a scam occurring nationwide.
Other ruses include fake calls from the IRS, mortgage companies or utility companies.
"There's an emergency element to this," Puetz said. "We have to get this done right away."
To complete the transaction, the victim calls the perpetrator back and provides the serial numbers on the prepaid debit cards. With that information, the funds can be transferred to another prepaid card.
Tracing the call back number is fruitless.
"The phones being utilized are usually the prepaid phones, which, again, are not registered to anybody, they can be tossed away," Puetz explained. "It really is fairly risk-free for the individual doing this type of thing and that's why it's so prevalent right now."
The best defense is knowing that any demand for an immediate payment by prepaid card is probably a scam.