Latest electricity scam hits East Texas businesses

Latest electricity scam hits East Texas businesses

TYLER (KYTX) - Scam artists have come up with a new way to get money out of East Texans. This latest scam targets small business owners. 

These scammers call you at your business and tell you either that you owe money on your electricity bill, or that you need to replace your meter. Then they threaten to turn off your electricity unless you pay them immediately.

Thankfully, several local businesses didn't fall for the trick. 

Carol Oxley has owned D's Coffee Shop in Tyler since 1968, and had never received a call from a scammer, until this week.

"He called the coffee shop about 4:15," Oxley said.

The man said he was from the Texas Electricity Commission and needed to install a new smart meter at Oxley's business that night.

He said she needed to pay immediately, or he'd discontinue her service.

"He said I don't know how long you'll be without electricity. That was the threat part of it," she says.

So she bought the Green Dot money card he told her to buy, but said she wouldn't give him the number on the back of the card until she met the installer in person. She says his next response gave him away

"He said, 'Well no, once they get there in front of the building I can no longer accept the money.'"

She hung up and called Oncor immediately. The supervisor told her the meter at her coffee shop had just been updated last year.

"He had been hearing of this scam. He said don't pay nobody anything," Oxley says.

Oxley then called the local Better Business Bureau to report the scam.

"I was mad because we work hard to try to make a living and these people get out here and try to get something for nothing, just really upsets me," she says.

Turns out, the scammer used the same phone number to call other local businesses, so BBB President Mechele Mills traced it.

"The call seemed to be coming from the Marshall area. We did try to make the call ourselves and it is a Magic Jack phone number," Mills says. 

Magic Jack is an online calling site that allows you to assign any area code to a phone number. So there's no telling whether this scammer is in East Texas or anywhere in the world. 

the BBB is now in contact with Magic Jack and Marshall Police to see if they can trace that call.

If you get a call like this, verify it by calling your utility company like Oxley did. Your provider will never ask you to pay by money card or by wiring money. Then call the BBB or local police.


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