Columbus restaurant falls prey to utility scam

A Columbus restaurant was swindled out of $400 in a scam where the con-artists pretended to be employees of Duke Energy.

Columbus Police Department Spokesman Sgt. Matt Harris says the officers are investigating a report from the business. According to the report, at about noon on Saturday, a man wearing a Duke Energy jacket entered the restaurant and made contact with an employee before leaving a short time later. Approximately 45 minutes later, the business owner received a phone call from a woman who advised that the business was behind on its electric bill and that the electricity was going to be shut off if an agreement was not reached.

The owner told police that the caller sounded legitimate and had his personal account information. The caller convinced the business owner to use a prepaid card to pay $400, a portion of the amount owed. After later speaking with a member of Duke Energy management, the owner learned she was a victim of a scam.

“Legitimate businesses do not operate in this fashion” said Sgt. Harris. “Scammers use high pressure tactics and fear that can make a rational person fall victim to this type of fraud.” He went on to say, “Never give out personal information during an unsolicited phone call and report suspicious activity to law enforcement.” Both CPD and Duke Energy say that if you have a question about the status of your electric bill, Duke Energy can be contacted at 1-800- 521-2232.