Duke Energy: Don't fall for scam

April 26, 2013 2:47:02 PM PDT
Vicky Ismail says she got the call about an hour before the lunch rush at her Cary Café. It was a strange call from a man claiming to be with her power company.

"He informed me that within an hour, power would be shut off if we didn't do what he told us to do," she recalled.

Ismail said the man told her his name was James Miller, from Duke Energy, and the caf?'s power bill was overdue.

"His instructions were to pay $798," she said. "I was worried. I thought, well, my husband forgot to pay the bill."

But Ismail took a minute to think and started asking questions.

"Because I didn't think that they would shut you down that quickly and also I thought they didn't have my account number. They had the incorrect address, and it started to sound fishy the more I pressed him for another supervisor. He said, 'I'm it,'" said Ismail.

So, she got the man's phone number and told him she'd call him back.

"And he said 'Well just so you know, it's an hour and the clock is ticking,'" she recalled.

Ismail went straight to Duke Energy's website and read a fraud alert that explains how the call she got is a scam.  She called police and Duke Energy and figured they'd stop the scam.

"They said we are aware of this guy, we are familiar with his name, we know the number and when we call he doesn't answer, so we're surprised he answered your phone call," said Ismail. "You think they would make more of an effort to track this person down."

So I got the phone number and called. The man claiming to be James Miller answered right away and told me he was with "Duke Energy Disconnection."

I gave him Cary Caf?s address and he told me I owed $680.  He told me I had 20 minutes to run to a drug store, buy a pre-paid cash card, and then call him back with the card info so he could transfer it into his account.  At that point, I told him I knew for a fact he didn't work for Duke Energy.  

The scammer hung up on me, but I kept calling. Even weeks later, the number still worked. The man just kept hanging up when I asked why he was trying to take people's money.

So what should you do if you get the call? Ismail has this advice: "Not to be intimidated, stop and think," she said. "When you get the call, while it may seem threatening and scary, just stop and think for just a minute."

Duke Energy told me customers with delinquent accounts get multiple notifications before their service is disconnected. There would never be a single notification just one hour before power was cut off.

It also says it never asks customers who have delinquent accounts to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.

As for why this person is hard to stop, Duke says scammers use temporary throw away phones that are tough to track.

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