As per this NYTimes article, Green Dot will stop selling MoneyPak reload cards, and the cards are expected to be out of stores by the end of March. While these cards haven’t often been used in MS schemes given the stringent cash-only requirements for loading, I think this is a good reminder that there are many forces beyond miles/points enthusiasts that lead to product shutdowns.
The article discusses the use of MoneyPak cards in scams–for example, Green Dot MoneyPaks (and bitcoin) are often the preferred sources of payment to ransomware–given that the cards are anonymous and allow for quick transfer of funds. This is one of the cited reasons why Green Dot is discontinuing the cards.
As much as people like to blame bloggers for revealing secrets, here’s an example of a product that is in many ways similar to Vanilla Reloads and is also being shut down, in spite of having no real value to MS. Fraud and money laundering are much bigger concerns for these products than people trying to get points (albeit some aspects of MS can look like money laundering, but using credit cards is not particularly useful for introducing dirty money into the financial system).
The NYTimes posted an article about MoneyPak, discussing a lot of the ways that it’s used for fraud. A typical example is fraudsters getting victims to load money onto MoneyPaks at CVS or Walgreens and then sending the reload codes to them where they then disappear with the money. It’s also discussed as a way for criminals to move funds through the financial system in a way that’s hard for authorities to trace (i.e. money laundering). While most miles/points schemes haven’t focused on MoneyPaks specifically, we’re all familiar with Vanilla Reloads, which operate very similarly and are also mentioned in the article.
Articles like this are helpful to better understand the ecosystem in which manufactured spending operates. While we were all saddened by the demise of buying VRs with credit cards at CVS, it makes more sense if you consider the high risk of fraud that CVS was taking on, even if you gave them your ID (you can still dispute the charge as a consumer with your credit card company, even if it’s your fault for falling for a scam).
In general, people doing manufactured spend have nothing to worry about, since there’s nothing illegal about the practice. Assuming you’re not involved in other criminal activity, you’re not doing anything to integrate bad funds into the financial system or intentionally layer money. But you should be aware that most people don’t really understand what we do and have a right to be suspicious given the potential for fraud on all of these prepaid devices. So don’t raise a fuss if people want to record your ID or if they want more information from you, since you’re not doing anything wrong, and failing to provide that information can just make you look more suspicious.