Watch for Telephone Scammers

Watch for Telephone Scammers

Faced with a rash of collection scams targeting its small commercial accounts, a Montana electric cooperative is concerned that those responsible might be operating outside of the United States..

Businesses have reportedly received the scammers’ calls after hours or on weekends when co-op offices would normally be closed. In some cases, calls have originated from numbers that show up as “Flathead Electric” on caller identification systems.

“One call came in on a Sunday at around 7 p.m. and it was someone claiming to be the power company [telling us] we were behind on our bill,” said Julie Smith, a tavern operator who has received several of the calls in recent weeks. “It was the same foreign accent and the same old scenario of [a call] that happened before.”

According to local law enforcement, the accent of the caller may indicate that the scam is originating outside of the United States, even though phone numbers may appear to have domestic area codes. Lyon-Coffey Electric hopes to derail scammers by telling account holders to visit the office or call the co-op directly if they have questions about their bills.

Just to let you know, Lyon-Coffey Electric does not call and threaten to disconnect power at all, and we certainly don’t outsource anything. Members are always welcome to come into our offices to discuss their bills, or call telephone numbers posted on their bills and available publicly.

Scammers have been targeting restaurants and other busy small businesses that would suffer economically if their power was shut off.

Investigators say the people behind these schemes move around and change their telephone numbers a lot so they are nearly impossible to catch.

One solution is by consumers educating themselves so they do not fall prey to such scams in the first place. That way the swindlers will give up, move on, or just be put out of business one community at a time.