Local scammers target utility customers

Authorities are reporting that there have been a string of local scams and attempted scams over the past few days, including a person impersonating a Columbus City Utilities worker.

Lt. Matt Harris, spokesman for the Columbus Police Department, said that police are investigating scams including two where local businesses were told by a person who called and claimed they were with Duke Energy. The fraudulent caller demanded that if a supposed past-due bill wasn’t paid immediately, the power to the business would shut off. That caller demanded the money be sent electronically.

Harris said that Duke Energy will not send workers out to collect a payment in person.

In another scam, a caller claimed to be with a computer software company and claimed that a customer was due a $150 credit. But the company accidentally deposited $1,500 into the victim’s checking account. The victim was told to withdraw the money and then wire it to China.

There have been two reports of customers being contacted over the past few days by an individual identifying himself as a Columbus City Utilities employee. This person, who even appears to be driving a city vehicle, is telling his targets that the customer’s water will be turned off if they do not pay him immediately.

Harris warned that if you are asked to pay money through a prepaid debit card, or to wire money to pay a bill, those should be warning signs. Or if a supposed utility company demands immediate payment in person or utilities will be shut off, it is likely a scam.

He also cautioned that scammers have been able to spoof local telephone numbers and fool Caller ID systems. He suggests that if you are contacted by phone with an unusual request that you call the the utility company directly yourself.