Utility ripoff: Pay up with pre-paid money card or your power will be turned off

WEST PALM BEACH - A warning tonight about a ripoff that's costing businesses and homeowners money. The Consumer Watchdog has received several calls about this scheme and wants to warn you before you’re the next victim.

It starts with a phone call warning you to pay your utility bill or your power will be turned off immediately.

The phone call is so believable, a West Palm Beach business lost $400. The owners of A Taste of Italy said they fell for the scam because the caller ID showed FPL.

You can’t rely on the caller ID for legitimacy.

Scammers have a way of "spoofing" or faking a real company's phone number. That's all part of their bag of tricks.

The Italian restaurant said the threat of no power, and the fact that they were behind on their bills due to slow sales made it easy for them to get duped.

“I think it's easier than we think sometimes and I'm glad if my interview will help others to think twice before making a payment on the phone even if it's coming from FPL department you have to check twice now,” said Nargiza Kazakbay.

Think twice especially if you are asked to send payment with a pre-paid money card. Scammers love those, because it's easy cash.

A legitimate company is not going to ask for that form of payment, and FPL said it won't even call you and ask for a credit card over the phone nor will it ask for personal information unless you initiate the call. Most banks won’t either. You need to think before you act.

FPL said if you encounter suspicious activity that involves FPL’s name or likeness, ask to see photo identification or a badge from the worker. You can also hang up and call FPL yourself from the number at the bottom of your bill.

Also, delete emails that seem suspicious and ask you to act immediately to verify personal information.

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