Restaurants targeted by utility scams

Eateries threatened by callers who say they will shut off power unless immediate payment is made.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Oct 14, 2013

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning that Ohio restaurants have been targeted by utility scams, where callers threaten to shut off the restaurant’s power unless it provides immediate payment.At least four restaurants have filed reports of the scam since July, and two reportedly lost about $500 to $800 to the scam.

“Scams are often underreported, so it’s likely that other businesses have been affected,” DeWine said. “We want to make sure all Ohio businesses know about this and warn their employees. It’s hard enough to run a business without having to worry about con artists trying to take advantage of you or your employees.”

In a typical scam, a caller contacts the business claiming to represent a local utility company and says the business is late on its payments. The caller threatens to turn off the business’ power unless it makes an immediate payment via a prepaid money card.

So far, utility scams have been reported by businesses in Cleveland, Columbus, and Fairfield County.

Businesses should take the following steps to protect themselves:

    Be skeptical of callers who threaten to shut off your power unless you make an immediate payment.
    If you receive a suspicious or threatening call, hang up and call your utility company using a number you know to be legitimate.
    Demand information in writing before sending any payment.
    Don’t trust someone who says you must pay using a prepaid money card or wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods for scammers.
    Warn employees about potential scams.

Businesses or consumers who suspect a scam or unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.