You’re going about your normal day at work when, suddenly, there’s a call that looks like it’s from your electric company. That’s what the caller ID shows, and what the person on the line says. The voice on the line tells you that, because of late payments, the power to your business is about to be cut off. Without power, you can’t keep your business running, so that’s an emergency. Or is it?
The next line of the story tells you that this not an emergency at all. Instead, it’s a straight-up scam. Because the caller next tells you to go to the store right away and buy a cash reload card. And the caller wants the card’s PIN code – which, of course, means the money is gone right away. But no legitimate business – and certainly no legitimate power company – will ever demand that you pay with cash reload cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla Reload. Or insist that you pay with a gift card or by wiring money.
Luckily, several people who’ve reported this scam to the FTC figured out it was a scam before they sent the money. At least one uncovered it thanks to a store clerk who spotted the scam for what it was and stopped the transaction in its tracks. But give everybody you know these reminders, whether you’re at home or at work:
Caller ID can be faked, so the person on the phone is not always who caller ID says it is.
Never wire money, put money on a cash reload card or gift card and give the PIN code to anyone who asks you to. The person who insists on one of those forms of payment is scamming you, so tell the FTC about them.
If someone threatens to cut off your power, get off the phone, look up the real power company number, and check with them before you do anything.
And, maybe, the next time you see an attentive clerk at the store, thank them for having your back.