New Telephone Scam In Santa Rosa County
Gulf Power Company customers in the Pensacola area are getting a heads-up about a telephone scam being investigated by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.
In what appears to be the latest incarnation of an ages-old scam, calls are made by someone claiming to work for Gulf Power.
“Basically, it starts off with information stating that you have an overdue bill,” says Santa Rosa Deputy Rich Aloy. “Then the threat comes, that they’re going to shut your power off immediately if you do not provide payment right away.”
Aloy says once they hear the threat, people get concerned and in some instances, pretty much do anything then can to get it resolved to keep their electricity on.
“You won’t get a call out of the blue asking for immediate payment over the phone with a credit card,” said Jeff Rogers, Gulf Power’s External Communications Manager. “We’ll never call a customer at home seeking any kind of personal information.”
Rogers says Green Dot and Reloadit appear to be the latest cards of choice in such stings, mainly because they’re largely untraceable.
When a Gulf Power employee does come to your home, Rogers says he or she will have a badge identifying them as such. Residents are also encouraged to call the utility if in doubt. And he adds that when it comes to being a target for scams, Gulf Power is hardly alone.
“It’s other utility customers as well, and they seem to be preying a bit on the elderly,” Rogers said. “One we just learned about, they’re calling and saying ‘we’ve got a new meter we’ve got to put on there. It’s $800 and if you don’t give us payment right now, we’re going to pull the old meter off and you won’t have power.”
If a new or upgraded meter is needed, Gulf Power will notify the customer and then install it at no charge. Rogers says one problem in battling scams is that technology enables the bad guys to make phone calls and email look as if they came from certain locations.
Santa Rosa Deputy Rich Aloy concedes that investigating such cases can be difficult at times, because of, among other things, the ability of scammers to clone telephone numbers.
“Essentially, I can call you and have the call appear that it comes from Alabama, Georgia; anywhere in the world that I wanted to come from,” Aloy said.
Phone scamming can be either a second- or third-degree felony, depending on how much has occurred. Upon conviction, penalties are handed down in relation to the scams and their individual circumstances.
Gulf Power can be reached at 1-800-225-5797. Anyone with information about the scam is asked to call the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office at 983-1100.