WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The Better Business Bureau is warning about a bill payment scam that is targeting Duke/Progress Energy utility customers.
According to the BBB, individuals and businesses have reported receiving phone calls that claim their electricity will be turned off within hours unless they make an immediate payment by a prepaid debit card.
So far, three business owners in the Wilmington area have contacted WECT to report they have been the target of this scam.
"He made me feel that if it wasn't paid in an hour my power would be shut off," said one restaurant manager. She says restaurant power bills can be up to $1,000 a month. The manager, who wishes to remain anomyous says the caller knew what her power bill was almost down to the penny and would only let her pay over the phone.
"I was getting adamant with him because he said that I had no other options," she said. While the manager knew the bill was up-to-date, the man on the other line wouldn't listen. "He didn't want to take no for an answer, at that point I just called Progress Energy and the Wilmington Police Department."
wect.com spoke to Wilmington Police who say, it's hard to track down a scammer, especially when they are using pre-paid calling cards like these suspects appear to be doing.
"We haven't been able to figure that out," said Detective Kevin Smith, with the Wilmington Police Department. "We know they are calling the Wilmington area, but can't pinpoint it yet."
"This scam is targeting Duke Energy customers today. Tomorrow, scammers could target Time Warner Cable customers or Piedmont Natural Gas customers," said BBB President Tom Bartholomy.
The BBB released the following advice for utility customers:
"Since November, we've received reports from about 80 customers who have been contacted by these scam artists. Many of the victims are small business owners," said Tom Cunningham, Duke Energy payments manager.
Any customers who receive a call that sounds like a scam are encouraged to contact the energy company directly.
Contact numbers in NC and SC include:
According to Cunningham, Duke/Progress Energy never contacts customers to demand a prepaid debit card payment. The company offers customers several payment options, including online, by phone, by automatic bank draft, by mail, or in person.
For more information about scams, please visit BBB.
Copyright 2013 WECT. All rights reserved. The BBB contributed information to this report.
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