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Continuing Phone Scam Targets Gulf Power

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In a continuing scam, area individuals and businesses continue to receive calls from a person claiming to represent Gulf Power and threatening to cut off service if payment is not made.

Gulf Power continues to work with law enforcement in reporting the incidents. But the utility continues to get a growing number of complaints from customers reporting fraudulent calls.

“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 Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers. “We’ll never call a customer at home seeking any kind of personal information.”

Rogers says Green Dot and Reloadit appear to be the cards of choice in the stings, mainly because they’re largely untraceable.

When a Gulf Power employee does come to your home, Rogers says he or she will have an ID badge. 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 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 notifies the customer and installs it at no charge. Rogers says one problem in battling scams is that the bad guys use technology to make phone calls and emails look like they came from certain whereabouts.

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 this or any other possible scam is asked to call their local law enforcement agency.  

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.