Consumer Investigator Jason Knowles talked exclusively with a woman who was ripped off
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The I-Team has a new warning about scammers threatening to turn off your electricity. Consumer Investigator Jason Knowles talked exclusively with a woman who was ripped off.
Scared her power would be shut off, a local woman lost $500 to the electric bill scam. She sent the money through a money transfer app, not once, but twice.
Now, she hopes her story stops others from falling for the scheme.
"My electricity was going to be turned off in 30 minutes unless I sent a payment. And being that I work from home, I had a bunch of conference calls coming up that day, I'm driving [and] I Instantly went into a panic," the scam victim told the I-Team.
The victim didn't want to show her face but said she was convinced into sending a total of $500 to a stranger through the popular money transfer app, Zelle.
"I thought I can't be without electricity but I did ask him because it was weird to me at first. Why can I getting this call when I'm not behind on my bill but again they were very convincing," she said. "He asked me if I pay my bill online and I told him yes, and that's when he told me we've been having issues with online payments."
First, she sent $250.
"He said, 'It's not enough,'" the victim recalled. "So he said, 'This time send $251 instead of $250'. He said, 'Write a refund in the notes,' and when I send the $251, the $250 I sent originally will be refunded back to me instantly."
Nothing was refunded.
She realized she was fooled and reported the incident to police.
Tom Dominguez, ComEd's spokesperson, said these types of scams have been around for a while but the scams using mobile payments are on the rise.
"Scammers know what to say, what tone of voice to use. They will take you off guard," he said.
In July 2021, ComEd received 80 reports of mobile payment scams, This July, there were 280.
Local victims this year lost a total $25,000.
"ComEd will never call you, text you or email you and demand payment. We will also not request you make payment through prepaid cash card, crypto or mobile payment apps," Dominguez said.
Once the scammer receives a mobile payment, it's most likely gone for good, said Steve Bernas, president of the Chicago area's Better Business Bureau.
"It is In their policy, on money transfer apps, on this particular scam and all sorts of scams. The scammers know it works. It is the policy of these money transfer places to not refund the money if you have knowingly willingly given it to someone,," he said.
Zelle said you should know and trust anyone before sending money, and if you receive a text or call form someone claiming to be your power company, hang up and call the company directly.
The scam victim the I-Team spoke to said the loss has been difficult.
"At the time, it was hard because, you know, that was $500 placed to the side to cover part of my rent. So now that's gone, and then you have to borrow and things like that," the victim said.
If you are behind on your bill, a utility would send you letters in the mail with options and a representative may call you to set up a payment plan. They will never demand immediate payment. No real utility will tell you that service will be shut off immediately.