A restaurant owner was willing to share the details of a recent utility scam:
A man called a restaurant on SE Hawthorne and told the manager who answered the phone that their power bill was unpaid and the electricity would be cut off in 20 minutes unless payment was rendered immediately. Aware that this was a scam, the owner called back the scammer whose number presented a 503 area code on caller ID. The owner called that number and a man with a thick accent answered. He told the scammer that he was very concerned and didn't want the power cut off. The scammer then asked for the name of the restaurant as well as the last four digits of the restaurant's phone number. Then he spent a few seconds typing and said, "You have not paid your bill, you must pay $1496.42 in the next 20 minutes or your electricity will be cut off. No checks, no credit cards, it must be cash." The owner noticed at this time that the background noise sounded like a call center, with multiple voices speaking. The owner asked how to get him the money. The scammer instructed him to go to a CVS or Rite Aid and purchase a Green Dot Money Pak Card within the next 10 minutes. After the purchase, the owner was supposed to scratch off the back of the card and phone him with the 14 digit serial number. Ten minutes later he called the owner and asked, " Did you purchase the card?" The owner revealed that he was aware that this was a scam and hung up.
Here's what the Federal Trade Commission recommends:
Scammers can use computers to make it look like they’re calling from one place – when, in fact, they’re someplace else. If you get a call, email, text, or even a visit from someone telling you to make a payment via PayPal, or to buy a GreenDot card or a gift card, it’s probably a scam. Call your utility company on the phone number that appears on your bill, describe what happened, and report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission, online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.