A Middle Tennessee electric company is asking all of its customers to be on alert after several customers were targeted by scammers with threats to shut off their power.
"They called to tell me they were going to shut my electricity off," said Kyle Spicer, owner of Nutrishop Murfreesboro.
When the person on the other end told Spicer the electric meter at his business was being replaced, and he needed to pay an overdue bill, he didn't hesitate to do it.
"I didn't want to be without electricity the rest of the day to lose potential sales," Spicer said.
Instead, Spicer became a victim of a popular scam where suspects will spoof a phone number, or disguise their caller ID. In this case, it was the number to the Murfreesboro Electric Department. The caller tells the customer he or she needs to pay with a pre-paid money card by a certain time or their lights will be turned off.
Spicer was scammed into paying more than $1,400.
And he's not alone. A 19-year-old college student is out more than $1,900, and the scammers called back for more.
"This is the week of finals. They are already under a lot of stress, and maybe he felt that pressure," said Jamie Caskey, with the Murfreesboro Electric Department.
Eric Fortney, one of the owners of Three Brothers in downtown Murfreesboro, almost became a victim. But a red flag went up in his mind because he had just paid his electric bill two days before.
"When I was talking to him, it was like, 'I don't know about this. This doesn't feel right.' I asked him his name. It's kind of weird how he said it. I said, 'I'll call you back. What's the number? I'm going to go over there and will check into this,'" Fortney said.
Channel 4 News decided to call the number ourselves. We gave a fake address, fake account number and were still told to pay $314.25. But when the caller was revealed to be a news reporter, the person on the other end of the line simply hung up.
Murfreesboro Electric officials say they will never ask a customer to pay a past due bill this way.
"We're not that type of business," Caskey said. "We are going to send a bill, send a late notice. And if it's a business, we are going to actually go out to the location and take a notice. We are not going to ask for immediate payment like that."
Murfreesboro Electric says, so far, 20 customers have reported the scam this week, and they say folks need to be extra aware of this scam on weekends, since the utility's office is closed.
Murfreesboro Electric will be sending scam alert notices to their 8,000 customers along with next month's bill.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Murfreesboro Electric customers targeted by costly scamMore>>
Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:14 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:14:19 GMT
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