Scammers using scare tactics over the phone to rip you off


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Callers posing as utility companies are using scare tactics to convince people that their electricity is in danger of being cut off unless they act quickly.

Thousands of North Carolinian’s get those calls every year, and many end up losing money to criminals preying on their fears and utilities are banding together to try and raise awareness.

One recent victim of the scam was the owner of a Raleigh gym.

Randy Wood was fighting mad. He owns Knuckle-Up Boxing.

He’s fighting against scammers who are trying to take his money and he scored a knockout.

At first glance, it looked like it was going to be lights out for his gym after he got an urgent-sounding phone call which began like this:

“Good afternoon, this is James calling in from Duke Energy–it’s regarding a disconnection order.”

Wood had just finished a strenuous workout when he got that call which continued, “We sent a legal notice on the 25th of last month and haven’t received a reply. Please contact billing.”

Kayla Gilbert of the BBB of Eastern NC says calls like that are proliferating in the state.

“The most common form of utility scam is where someone calls a person and tells them they are short on their electric bill and if they don’t pay they are going to shut off their power,” she said.

The caller was trying to put Wood in a clinch with just that kind of threat.

 “He kept repeating my service would be cut off by 4 o’clock that day,” said Wood.

But, Wood immediately knew something wasn’t right because his gym doesn’t have an account with Duke Energy – the building owner has that account.

Also, the guy on the phone wanted his money immediately.

“He actually insisted I go to another location and pay with cash,” said Wood.

Gilbert says, “Any unusual form of payment is a red flag for a scam.”

After taking a one-two punch of a demand for cash and a threat of immediate disconnection—Wood fought back.

“What I ended up doing was calling Duke Energy myself and put in the account number on the invoice and it came back zero balance,” he explained.

Before a utility disconnects your service—you will get plenty of warning in the form of written communications.

“A utility company will contact you by mail,” said Gilbert. “They’ll send you letters letting you know what the issue is.”

Because nothing added up–Wood decided take the gloves off and confront the scammer.

“I said ‘OK—go head and shut it off then’. He said ‘OK, is there anything else I can do for you?’ I said ‘yeah—stop calling me’,” said Wood.

If you get a call like that, there’s some things you can do besides hanging up on them.

Report that scam to your local utility and report it to the BBB’s Scam Tracker to alert others that it’s happening in your area.

The organization Utilities United Against Scams also offers a free guide that you access here to help you avoid the different kinds of utility scams that con-artists like to use.

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