Temporary panic as Green Dot cards go red

Temporary panic as Green Dot cards go red

BOSTON — Declined for a gallon of milk. Rejected for a phone bill. Nothing there to cover an order of take-out food.

Across Massachusetts, some recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance checks suddenly found themselves high, dry and in a panic Wednesday -- after Green Dot inexplicably locked them out of their accounts.

The popular card, sold at such stores as Wal-Mart, effectively allows users to bank without a bank. It also comes with such benefits as no fees and cash-back bonuses.

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All of those affected elected to have unemployment funds directly deposited into their Green Dot accounts.

Annalee Williams, a former full-time Uber and Lyft driver from Dorchester, spent several anguished hours wondering how she was going to feed her five children -- especially her four hungry boys.

A Yarmouth mother of two, who had been working as a bartender before the pandemic hit, was so consumed with worry she didn't sleep at all Tuesday night.

“I don’t have a single dollar,” she told Boston 25 News.

Many Green Dot customers tried to resolve the issue on the company website -- but came away frustrated.

“They told me to put in my social security and my birthdate or the card number,” said Zeiri Esturban of Boston. “So I did so and it said, ‘This account has been closed. You can no longer bank with us.’”

Adding to the problem, many said, Green Dot had no live person to talk with. That left some to speculate whether the company had been hacked, or whether it went bankrupt or otherwise stole depositor's funds.

Making matters worse, the state seemed caught off-guard, as well -- with one Green Dot customer told she was on a long list of residents complaining about no access to accounts Wednesday morning.

But a few hours later, the problem -- whatever it was -- disappeared -- at least for the two Green Dot customers we were able to check back with.

"I logged back into my account and it's letting me log in but I haven't purchased anything yet," said Esturban.

Another woman told us she pulled $500 from an ATM using the Green Dot card -- and, so rattled was she by the hours of panic, would have pulled all her funds if there was no withdrawal limit.

Green Dot did not return our e-mails questioning the reason for the glitch -- or whether customers should be worried some deeper problem exists with the company.

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