Stafford police are warning area business owners not to fall for a scam involving phony late notices on utility payments.
The scammer will contact a local
restaurant and ask to speak to the owner or manager. The scammer uses a
“magic jack” phone number that depicts a false number of a legitimate
person or business using a computer, police said.
Business owners are told they are calling on behalf of the electric company regarding a delinquent bill. The scammer then warns victims that their power will be shut off, unless they pay through a "Green Dot" money pack gift card, because regular credit card payments will not go through until the following Monday, police said.
victim is then instructed to purchase approximately $1500 to
$2,000 in “Green Dot” cards, scratch the pin number off of the back
and supply the scammer with the pin number, said police.
Green Dot cards are not
traceable and the money is not recoverable. When the victim attempts to
contact the electric company, they usually get an automated voice mail
telling them to call back during normal business hours.
Utility companies have told police this is a widespread problem, police said.
The scammers have targeted numerous businesses in
Manahawkin over the past few months. The first attempt was in September, but the business owner
did not fall for the scam.
In the second attempt the business owner was
scammed out of $1,000. The third reported attempt occurred last week
at a local business, where the owner was scammed out of $1,485. All
of the scams were conducted on Saturdays during the day and targeted
strip mall restaurants, police said.
Stafford police warn that once a victim discloses the pin number to
the scammer over the phone, there is absolutely no way to recover the
money, or to know the identity of the scammer.