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Scammers use threat of power shut-off to dupe businesses, consumers

Scammers use threat of power shut-off to dupe businesses, consumers (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Imagine the power company threatening to shut you off, even though your bill is all-paid-up. It's a call people across Utah have been getting, but the calls are not actually from the power company.

It’s a scam that plays off of people's fears. Thieves are banking on consumers and businesses panicking and paying to keep from losing power.

Get Gephardt first reported on this scam way back in June of 2013 after Buddco Distribution got the call that had them in a panic.

“They call at 2:00 PM and say, between 2:45 PM and 3:15 PM your power will be shut off and then you'll owe another $490 to reconnect it,” Buddco Distribution said.

Buddco didn't fall for the scam.

Get Gephardt again reported the scam in June of 2016 after Millcreek Eyeware was contacted by a crook pretending to be Rocky Mountain Power.

“I'm alarmed right off the bat because you hear your power is about to be shut off and you just panic," the owner said.

Millcreek Eyeware got wise before sending money off to the crook.

And just this past week, another call, this time from a consumer who DID fall for the scam.

In each cases, the person on the other end of the line claims to be with Rocky Mountain Power. The scammer tells the person or business they are late on their power bill and a crew in their area would turn off the power if they don't pay immediately.

Today, the Utah division of consumer protection issued a warning about the scam.

“The scam callers utilize scare tactics to convince the customer that the only way to avoid an interruption in service is to pay immediately,” DCP said. “These tactics include claiming that a Rocky Mountain Power truck is down the customer’s street and ready to turn off service. Reports indicate that scam callers often request payment via reloadable cards, but the scam callers may attempt to gain credit card information. The perpetrators of this fraud may use phone numbers with Utah area codes, and may have registered a phone number in such a way that “Rocky Mountain Power” appears on a customer’s caller ID.”

"Don’t fall victim to these blatant scammers,” warned Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce Francine Giani. “If you have questions, contact your utility directly using the number on your bill.”

Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson Paul Murphy echoed Giani’s advice. If you get a call from the Rocky Mountain Power, Murphy suggests you politely end the call, then call RMP back directly at 1-888-221-7070 and verify if the call was legitimate.

Murphy says this scam casts a wide net.

“I’ve seen [the scam] happen to really smart people, really good people, good businesses - it can happen to everyone," Murphy said.

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