A recent phone scam has been hitting residents of Los Angeles County, particularly those who live in or around North Hollywood.

The scam begins with a private individual receiving a phone call and being informed that they owe money on past-due utility bills. The victim is then threatened with disconnection of services or possible deportation if the amount is not paid immediately.

The caller then instructs the victim to pay using a GreenDot/MoneyPak card that can be obtained at local grocery or convenience stores.

They are given an alternate number to call once the card is purchased and are instructed to provide the serial number on the card to the individual at this new number. With the serial number, the scammers are able to transfer the funds to their own prepaid credit cards and effectively steal the money from the victim.

Phone scams are nothing new, and should the perpetrators of this one be apprehended, it’s likely that another one will pop up at some point in the future.

Whenever someone calls you asking for immediate payment, you should always be suspicious. Legitimate enterprises will never call you and demand money in such a roundabout way, and almost always attempt to contact you via the postal service as well.

If someone calls you demanding payment for something, remember that you can always ask them to send the bill through the mail; scammers are opportunists and likely won’t attempt to go the extra mile by trying to forge a false billing statement. So stay safe out there, and stay aware of any scammers trying this phone trick.