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People line up for pre-paid debit cards that don't work

April 16, 2012 3:06:06 PM PDT
What is drawing huge crowds in the Bronx, people lining up around the block, to get into a storefront that houses a tax preparation office, what's really going on?

And what's the involvement of a California bank that issues pre-paid debit cards?

Eyewitness News is still trying to get straight answers.

People who went to the storefront asked Eyewitness News to investigate after they claim they were promised thousands of dollars in government surplus money that would be put on pre-paid debit cards.

Now, the bank that issues those debit cards has put out a warning.

"I'd like to talk to the boss," Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Sarah Wallace said.

"He's not here," security at E &M Multi Service said.

The security team outside E&M multi services in the Bronx didn't want to answer Eyewitness News' questions.

They tried to repeatedly block Eyewitness News from talking to customers lined up outside the storefront location that says it's a tax preparation business.

"Why are you stopping?" Wallace asked.

"Cause I want to," security said.

On a recent day, Eyewitness News watched as the head of security barked crowd control orders and collected copies of social security cards and state IDs to take up the back stairs through the 99 cent store.

So what is everyone here for? Some didn't want to show their faces.

"What did they say about Obama?" Wallace asked.

"That we would get a thousand dollars and you would sign," a person in line said.

"And you would get a thousand dollars? This was Obama stimulus money?" Wallace asked.

"Yes," the person answered, "I activated the card and there was nothing on it."

"Are you giving away free money?" Wallace asked.

"Get that camera out of my face," Security said.

"You gave them your social security card, so you were going to get a thousand dollars?" Wallace asked.

"Yes," a man answered.

The owner finally appeared.

"Ma'am I'm going to say one more time, I run an income tax business," the owner said, "Aim the camera at that sign."

"I know some people who were promised $1,000 on a card, are you offering that?" Wallace asked.

"I said no," the owner said.

"Did they help you with your tax refund?" Wallace asked a woman.

"No," she said.

The customer told Eyewitness News she'd already filed her taxes elsewhere.

"I gave them a copy of my benefit card, social security number," the woman said.

She says she got a card with no money on it.

The California bank that issues those cards told Eyewitness News there have been allegations of illegal activity involving debit cards sent to E&M and the bank has now recorded a message on its toll free number.

"If you are attempting to access your funds and you received your credit card from E and M Multi-Services. First California Bank has frozen your card because of suspicious activity related to tax refunds," the message stated.

Eyewitness News went back Monday to try to ask about the bank's investigation.

It would be pretty easy to correct any rumors, but the tax preparer allows the lines to continue.

He says there's no stimulus money and that people only get refunds if they're entitled to them.

It's unclear why people are asked to hand over all their personal information.

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If you have a tip about this or any other issue you'd like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at the.investigators@abc.com.

Follow Jim Hoffer on Twitter at twitter.com/nycinvestigates and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimhoffer.wabc

Follow Sarah Wallace on Twitter at twitter.com/swinvestigates and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sarahwallace.wabc

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