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St. Charles police warn of utility scam

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

ST. CHARLES – Businesses that receive a call threatening that their electricity will be shut off because of an unpaid bill should not rush to payment because it might be a scam, the St. Charles Police Department said Tuesday.

“If they’re suspicious in any manner, they should call police,” spokesman Paul McCurtain said.

A sub and pizza restaurant in the 2700 block of East Main Street lost $489.86 after getting such a call Monday, McCurtain said. The caller reportedly identified himself as ComEd employee Steve Johnson and said the business’ electricity would be shut off at 12:15 p.m. if its unpaid bill wasn’t paid immediately.

The victim reportedly was instructed to buy a Green Dot Money Pak card for the nearly $490 bill. Before he did, he got a call from another supposed ComEd employee who said he was en route to turn off the power, McCurtain said.

The victim then bought a Green Dot Money Park card – which has a $500 limit – at a nearby pharmacy, McCurtain said.

When the first caller called back, the victim gave him the Green Dot Money Pak card number, McCurtain said. The caller reportedly said he would cancel the shut-off order to the business.

Soon afterward, the victim suspected the incident might have been a scam because the business’ electric service is provided by the city, and he verified the account was current, police said.

Police are not aware of similar calls to other businesses, but they wanted to publicize this incident to prevent others from falling victim, McCurtain said.

He said the city would not give an electric customer that short of notice of a disconnect.

“The city would never do that,” he said.

He also reminds electric customers that their service provider is St. Charles if they are within the city limits. If an account is in disconnect status, no utility payments are taken over the phone, online or through Money Pak cards, police said.

Investigation into the incident is ongoing.

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