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Electric Bill Scams Make Comeback

"He said you didn't pay for your electric bill, and if you don’t pay within 15 minutes, I will cut your power off,” said Chen, when she was first confronted by her scammer via telephone.

WINCHESTER, Va. - Anna Chen is a savvy business woman, who opened her own restaurant six months ago. But even she was a victim of a scamming operation.

"He said you didn't pay for your electric bill, and if you don’t pay within 15 minutes, I will cut your power off,” said Chen, when she was first confronted by her scammer via telephone.

The scammer told Anna to load up a Green Dot Money Pak Card, and call him back with the information. So why did Anna, a successful business owner, believe him?

"I got nervous,” said Chen. “That's why. I never have had an issue with that.” She said she always pays her bills on time.

Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative has seen 12 cases of electric bill scams since 2012.

"We want our customers to know that the Cooperative will not communicate about the potential termination of electric service through or via phone,” That will only occur through mailed notification."

Police say the most alarming thing about these recent eclectic bill scams are that thieves know the exact amount of a person's electric bill. That fact alone leads a potential victim to trust the person on the other end of the line.

"This time around they actually know the exact amount, and there are a number of ways they would be able to access that information,” said Lauren Cummings, a spokesperson for the Winchester Police Department. “They're getting people, because people believe that it's legitimate since they know the actual amount of their electricity bills."

If you think you're being scammed, police say to notify local law enforcement and your electric company immediately. As for Anna, she has her own advice:

"Do not pre-pay anything. I asked the guy, ‘Can I pay with a credit card over the phone?’, and he said, ‘No, because you're already past due.’"

Police say these calls have been coming from an 877 phone number, and want to remind residents to not answer phone calls they do not recognize.

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