The State Law Enforcement Division will begin investigating a phone scam that targets S.C. utility customers, said Attorney General Alan Wilson.
The scheme begins with a phone call by someone pretending to be an electric cooperative employee who warns the consumer that the utility service will be disconnected unless payment is received immediately.
Scammers then direct consumers to purchase a pre-paid debit card and to call a toll-free number to deliver the serial code listed on the card, effectively stealing the money used to purchase the card, according to a press release.
“It’s imperative that we prevent these thieves from taking advantage of our consumer-members,” said Mike Couick, president and CEO of The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina. “These are committed criminals who are preying upon some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Initial complaints suggested scam operators were targeting Hispanic communities, but the scheme broadened recently to include small business owners and restaurants.
“Due to the volume of complaints, I have asked SLED to open a formal investigation,” Wilson said. “I believe this is a prudent step to help protect unsuspecting
Tom Upshaw, president and CEO of Palmetto Electric Cooperative, said in a news release that the electric cooperatives will never call and ask for personal information over the phone and said that a notice would be mailed before services are disconnected.
Anyone who receives a call like this is asked to call police.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381, or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_akelley.