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Electric shutoff scam targeting homes, businesses, even churches

Caller says power will be shut off in 20 minutes
Duke settlement could mean $200 in your pocket
Posted at 8:10 AM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 11:10:20-05

This pandemic holiday season, the last thing you need is too have your power disconnected.

But Lisa Shook , who manages a home inspection company, recently got a call from someone claiming to be with their electric company.

"He said he was going to be in our driveway to cut off our services," she said.

Shook handed the phone to owner Rob Wells, who was told he was behind on his bill, and would be cut off if he didn't pay immediately.

"He said we needed to pay $357 or they would disconnect the electric," Wells said, saying the man demanded a debit or credit card number.

It sounded legit, as the caller knew the name of his business, and more.

So this expert who normally inspects houses inspected his records, and realized he was not behind on his bill after all.

But it may have been too late: Someone emptied his debit card a short time later.

"Everything got hacked, my credit card, everything," he said.

It was all a scam. He is now working with his bank to repair the fraud charges.

Easy to believe the caller's claims

Last year, one church almost lost $1,000.

Donald Kincaid is an Episcopal church groundskeeeper. He was shocked when he received a call from the power company claiming the church had fallen behind on its electric bill.

"The caller said that the gas and electric would be cut off in about a half an hour because the bill hadn't been paid," he said.

The caller couldn't have been more clear. Unless the church paid the money immediately, workers would shut its power off.

The caller said that to avert a shutoff, Kincaid needed to buy nearly $1,000 in Green Dot Visa cards" and send it to them, giving them the number on the card."

The church almost fell for the power disconnect scam, which targets homeowners, small businesses and now churches.

Energy companies around the country remind customers that they will never call you threatening immediate disconnection.

Duke Energy spokesman Lee Freedman says if you are behind on your bill, they will send you several notices first, and will never demand you pay immediately by debit or gift card.

So hang up, and call your provider at the number on your bill, not the number the call came from.

As always, don't waste your money.

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