Don't fall for these power bill scammers

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Don't fall for swindlers pretending to be from Duke Energy.

Amy Matthews called it one of the most frightening phone calls she has ever received.

"It took ten years off my life I can guarantee you that," Matthews said.

The longtime Spring Lake florist said the caller told her he was with Duke Energy, and they were cutting her business's electricity if she didn't immediately pay a past due bill. Matthews said she felt certain her account was up to date, but says the caller insisted.

She purchased two reloadable debit cards, then gave the phony caller the cards' confirmation numbers. But afterward, she immediately called Jim Welch, a friend and former law enforcement officer. He said he knew immediately something wasn't right.

"A credit card is just as good as cash, and in such a hurry. It had to be done now," Welch said. "And it just didn't sound right."

Luckily, Matthews was able to stop payment on the cards before the cash was taken out of the accounts. But others haven't been so lucky.

Duke Energy says it gets dozens of complaints each week from businesses and some residential customers who've been bilked out of hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

Duke Energy officials say their best advice is to hang up. They say Duke's customers can make payments online, by phone or mail, and there is never a single phone call just before a possible disconnection.

ABC11 called the phony Duke number. A man who answered said his name was James, but then hung up. And then no one answered repeated calls.

Law enforcement authorities say anyone who gets a scam call like that should hang up and call police. And not to let a last-minute threat such as this cause you to panic.

RELATED: Duke Energy's stop scams page

For months, the state attorney general's office, and Duke officials have warned residents to be on alert for this phone scam. The utility has a webpage about the scam, and is focused on identifying the trick callers, a spokesman said. They have been able to shut down several phony numbers.

For additional information, you can also contact the N.C. Attorney General Scam Hotline at (800) 777-9898.

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