Out $1K in minutes. It could happen to you as scammers become more savvy

Would you know what to look for?

When opening a new pizza place, Brad Fisher would hope his only worry would be about his business, Brooklyn Pizza in Seminole.

But that changed when he received a call from somebody claiming to be Duke Energy.

“My partner received a call from what she thought was Duke Energy, that they would be cutting us off if we did not pay our bill right now,” says Fisher.

Brad called the phone number right back and thanks to a recording, he believed that he was dealing with the electric company.

“I said I’ll pay bill. He said, I can’t pay over the phone because engineers are already out on their way,” says Fisher.

He was directed to go to one of their pay centers at a nearby Winn Dixie where he would purchase close to $1,000 in Green Dot Money Paks.

“That’s my receipt from Winn Dixie for $985,” says Fisher.

A Green Dot Money Pak allows you to put cash on a card right away and make payments automatically. People who may not have a bank account, it allows them to pay their bills.

“These are money paks worth $322 each,” says Fisher.

But they are also something scammers have taken advantage of.

“I never thought I would be scammed like this,” says Fisher.

Brad gave the person over the phone the digits to his money paks so they could have control of the funds and when they called back for even more money,

“That’s when I knew I had been scammed,” says Fisher.

We called the so called, Duke Energy number that called Brad and scammers are smart these days. The call seemed legit.

When a person answered the phone they asked for my zip code and confirmed I owed money, directing me to the nearest Winn Dixie just like they did Brad.

“If you’re a business owner, look up the number for Duke Energy or read number off statement,” says Detective Rob Lazzaro,  with the Clearwater Police Department.

Clearwater Police Department says green dot cards were being used by scammers about 2-3 years ago and were surprised to hear they are back in the Bay Area.

“Two years ago when green dots were being used quite a bit, Walgreens and CVS stepped up and had their cashiers warning everybody that there are scams out there and think twice before sending out,” says Det. Lazzaro.

We reached out to Winn Dixie to see if they would be alerting their clerks and we are waiting to hear back.

And when it comes to green dot cards, they only come with a 14 digit number on the back but when you call them, a recording asks for a 16 digit number, and if you don’t have one, the phone just hangs up.

But there is a warning on the back of the card alerting users to be careful of scammers.

Duke Energy is being used a coy by a lot by scammers because people get scared hearing that their electric may be turned off any minute, but Duke Energy wants you to know:

  • That they never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card – or iTunes card -- to avoid disconnection.
  • Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
  • Customers with delinquent accounts receive advance disconnection notification with the regular monthly billing – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.

Customers, who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, should contact local authorities, and then the Duke Energy Florida phone number listed on their bill (800-700-8744). Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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