Frisco police see uptick in scammers claiming to be utility companies

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on August 2, 2013 at 5:29 PM

FRISCO –– It's a frightening scenario for any utility customer: Your power company calls and says if you don't pay what you owe within a few hours, they'll turn off your electricity. But recently, in many cases, it's not your utility calling. Instead, it's crooks looking to make some easy money.     

The last thing any business wants is for their power to be shut off, especially a restaurant. That's why the manager of Mojito's was so alarmed when someone claiming to be from CoServ called him and said they were sending a truck on the way to do just that.  

The caller told John Urrego to make a $500 payment to stop the restaurant’s power from being shut off. The caller told Urrego to purchase a pre-paid credit card at a local pharmacy to pay the bill. Urrego sent an employee out to buy one.  "I thought it was real and normal,” said Urrego.  “He said, we are calling from the electric company. We haven't received any payment."

Frisco police say the thieves are preying on people’s fears.  

"That's his business,” said Jonathan Skertich, a Frisco police spokesman. “That's his well being. That's how he feeds his family and himself. Without electricity, people won't be able to come in and buy food."

Thirty minutes later, the fake CoServ employee called back, asking for number on the $300 pre-paid credit card.  Urrego gave it to them.  Only then did he realize this was a scam.  "The moment when I realized it, I said, wait a minute,” said Urrego.  “But I already told him all the info."

The Frisco restaurant manager isn't the only CoServ member to come in contact with thieves posing as CoServ employees. This week, the scammers tried to steal money from customers in Lantana and Flower Mound. Last month, a 71-year-old woman in Highland Village was tricked into providing her bank debit card info. Five minutes later, $1,000 was missing from her account.

Other utilities in North Texas and throughout the U.S have reported similar scams. Police say never give out personal information over the phone.

Email sstoler@wfaa.com

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