Two New Scams Target Co-Op Members

Two New Scams Target Co-Op Members

Two New Scams Target Co-op Members

Posted By Michael W. Kahn On August 1, 2016 @ 11:29 am In Crime,Editor's Pick

If someone called claiming to be from the co-op and said to meet them at the drugstore with cash to pay your electric bill, would you do it? Or what if the caller said you’re due a rebate from the statewide magazine? Would you believe it?

New scams targeting electric co-op members are being reported in Florida and Pennsylvania. (Photo By: Getty Images/iStockphoto)The bad guys think so, because those are two of the newest scams being reported by co-op members.

In Florida, some SECO Energy [2] members report being called by a supposed co-op employee who told them to bring cash to a local CVS pharmacy, in order to avoid disconnection.

 

“That was one of the most startling, disturbing things I’ve heard recently—that someone would actually entertain the idea of meeting someone and giving them cash,” said Kathryn Gloria, vice president of corporate communications and energy services at SECO, which serves seven central Florida counties.

“The money is one thing, but it’s a safety issue, and pretty frightening when you’re talking about the senior population.”

Gloria said at least one commercial member was taken advantage of—a restaurant that received a scam call threatening disconnection in the middle of the lunch rush.

In another case, an animal hospital got a call from someone claiming to be a “field rep” for SECO. Fortunately, the vet called SECO and verified it had a zero balance.

“I think scammers are just getting bolder,” said Gloria. “They’re realizing that people are more cautious, and if they claim to be a SECO employee I think it adds credibility to their story and increases the odds of their being able to steal from the member.”

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, a co-op member got a call from someone claiming to have a $25 rebate to cover subscription costs to the statewide magazine Penn Lines. [3]

“This is an apparent scam, as local cooperatives provide members with Penn Lines magazine as part of their membership with no subscription required,” said Peter Fitzgerald, the magazine’s editor.

The member suspected something was fishy, hung up and called their co-op, REA Energy Cooperative [4] in Indiana, Pa., which verified there was no magazine rebate.

“It is assumed that if the member had been receptive to the call, the caller would have asked for banking information so the ‘rebate’ could be deposited directly into the member’s account,” Fitzgerald added.

A warning note to readers will appear in the next edition of Penn Lines.

Finally, an oldie but goodie is rearing its ugly head in Colorado, where Durango-based La Plata Electric Association [5] members are getting calls from people claiming to be from the co-op’s billing department, threatening disconnection if they don’t pay immediately.

Betsy Lovelace, LPEA’s customer service supervisor, called the number they gave.

“The automated message answered ‘La Plata Electric Association,’” said Lovelace. “After challenging someone supposedly in the ‘billing department,’ and finishing the call, I tried calling the phone number again, and the recorded message then said ‘Holy Cross Electric Association.’ So when caught, they just move on to the next electric cooperative.”

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