Electricity phone scam has Texas businesses on the alert

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by KVUE

khou.com

Posted on April 9, 2014 at 9:34 AM

AUSTIN, Texas -- A business owner says someone tried to trick her out of hundreds of dollars over the weekend, and she's not alone.

Inside Janet St. Paul's salon, you will find a soothing oasis of beauty, but on Saturday St. Paul got a glimpse of the ugly side of a scam. St. Paul says she got a call from a man who claimed to work for Austin Energy.

"They got us at the perfect time because I was with clients," St. Paul said. "Someone said your energy bill hasn't been paid, and I immediately thought something's wrong with Bill Pay or my bank account or it's not tracking right.  He said, 'Look your electricity is going to be shut off in 45 minutes.'"

The scammer told St. Paul to call him back, and give him a prepaid card worth almost $500.

St. Paul panicked and had an employee arrange payment. "When you called back he answered,  'Austin Energy' like a call center, like a 1-800 call center," she said.

Then St. Paul's partner told her to not to pay because she thought the scenario didn't add up. Her partner was right.

"The minute we called Austin Energy they said this is a scam," said St. Paul.

KVUE called the number the scammer claimed belonged to Austin Energy, and we received a recorded message which said, "Thank you for calling Austin Energy, there is no one available to take your call right now, please call back later."

Austin Energy spokesman Luis Rivas says Austin Energy will not ask customers for credit card information or to make wire transfers. He also says the phone scam is not new.

"If you get a call claiming to be from Austin Energy that's a red flag. We don't call customers to let them know they're past due on their accounts," Rivas said. “This is something that's been going on for quite some time now.”

Austin Energy tells us quite a few people and businesses received calls over the weekend from a scammer claiming to be with Austin Energy.

If you aren't sure about someone trying to collect payment on your electric bill, call Austin Energy directly using the number on their website.

Go here for Austin Energy's website.

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