Scammers Target Utility Customers In A New Way
GAINESVILLE – It’s a new twist on an old scam. Con artists are going to some lengths to make their scam seem authentic. Somebody claiming to represent Gainesville Regional Utilities is employing caller ID and muzak to seem realistic. However one potential target managed to see through the scam.
The scammers were able to mask what shows up on the caller id as a Gainesville Regional Utility number. I talked to one of these posers, even listened to their hold music however I was hung up on when they noticed we were on to them.
A fishy phone call set off a red flag for Alisa Kenney, the owner of Coffee Culture in Gainesville. “Well my employee got a phone call this morning and she called me to let me know because the person calling said they were from GRU and if we didn't pay our bill within 45 minutes we would be turned off," Kenney said.
"While Coffee Culture received a call from a listed GRU phone number, to make a payment they were told to call a different phone number. This is what we heard when we called: 'This account is already in use, if you think this recording is an error... Please contact your system administrator.'
However, moments later we got a call back. It was a man pretending to be a GRU representative, by the name of John Baker asking for a money order payment. "Basically seeing that it is an express payment-- we will only accept cash. You go to the cashier and let him or her know that you need to purchase a Green Dot Moneypak," Baker said.
Upon hearing I wasn't a customer but a reporter instead-- he hung up. GRU representatives say they just don't do business this way.
Herb Firsching the Interim Director of Customer Operations at GRU said, "We do make limited outbound calls to follow up on customer situations... We never make outbound calls for payments. So any customers getting any call from someone saying they're from GRU and they must make an instantaneous or near instantaneous payment to prevent disconnect of service, that is not GRU calling."
Firsching says customers should contact GRU and confirm the status on your account. That's exactly what Kenney did. "And so I do worry that some of the small businesses or anyone targeted don't have the resources to cover that kind of a loss."
We spoke to a Gainesville police spokesperson about this incident. He tells us, phone scams are reported multiple times a week during the holiday season.
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