Saturday, April 6, 2019

This Week's Teplitz Report Blurb - I Almost Got Scammed

I want to share a story with you that happened a few days ago about how I came very close to being scammed for almost $500. I’m sharing this to make you aware of the sophistication of the scammers. 

I received a phone call that was a recording saying it was from my local utility and that my electricity was going to be shut off today for not paying my bill. The recording gave me an 800 number to call.

When I called, I had to give the normal info of address and phone number. The person on the phone said that I had not paid my February and March bills and that I had been notified several times that I was late. Due to not responding he said that my electricity was going to be shut off in 29 minutes.

Now, I don’t pay my bills myself as my bookkeeper does that. My immediate thought was that the checks had been lost in the mail. Since my bookkeeper was not in, I asked how can I stop this cut off from happening? I was told that I needed to go to a CVS drugstore and purchase a certain card with cash. They said due the immediacy of the shutoff about to take place, they could only accept this one type of card (I don’t remember what brand it was) and I had to pay cash for the card. I asked for an hour to take care of this because I had to go to the bank to get the money ($498.05). He said he could only give me 42 minutes before the shutoff would happen and that I needed to call his phone extension when I got the card.

As I was getting ready to run out to the bank, my wife, Elizabeth, came in and asked me what was going on. After my explanation, Elizabeth said she just read a news report that this was a scam.

I immediately called my electric company directly and they confirmed that it was a scam. Their representative told me that they had already gotten 40 calls from customers in my area about this. I thought of how many others didn’t call the electric company and did what I was about to do which was pay the scammers.

In retrospect, their scam was quite sophisticated by starting with an automatic message, as we all have gotten those. As an example, I’ve gotten them from my credit card company saying that I needed to call their security line about a suspicious charge on my card. That robo call turned out to be true. 

By my calling their 800 number, I was the one taking action and their person was friendly and was assisting me. They created a sense of urgency by saying the electricity was going to be shut off in 29 minutes. I asked how I could stop the clock and that’s when he told me about CVS and the card. He said that this was the only way to stop the electricity being turned off. The person said I needed to take immediate action. I asked for and hour delay and he said he could only give me an additional 42 minutes, which was creating a sense of urgency. 

All in all, quite a scam. I’m sure glad my wife walked in when she did; otherwise, I would be out $498.05! My wife just mentioned to me that she posted about this on our community’s electronic bulletin board and around 20 people replied that it had also happened to them. So…watch out for these scammers as they’re becoming more and more sophisticated.

I just read an article which said more people fall for these scams later in the week and later in the day.

No comments: