For 15 years, Sheila Matthews has operated Sweet Surrender, a small restaurant and bakery, on Ririe’s Main Street between Miller and Hewitt streets.
It’s a comfortable business, she explains, with maybe seven tables that the locals fill.
Each day she starts her routine with making breads, turning the oven on, pulling fresh ingredients from the cooler, and starting the fryer. All this in preparation of serving customers unique lunch and dinner meals, and one of her specialties, doughnut holes.
“We have lunch specials, such as: Wednesday is Chicken and Noodles,” she says. “And it all takes time to cook.”
So, when Rocky Mountain Power interrupted her daily work routine, she was bugged, and became more disturbed as the conversation went on.
“He said he was with Rocky Mountain Power and that I needed to pay my electric bill immediately because I was behind,” she says. “And, then when he said it was $900, and that a crew would be there in 45 minutes to shut off the power, I knew it was a scam.”
Small businesses in the Rocky Mountain service region are being slammed with scam calls demanding immediate payment. Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Jeff Hymas says the company generally receives 8-10 calls a day about “past due” payments, and alarmingly 2-3 people a week are falling victim.
“We don’t work that way,” he says. “What we’ll generally do is send out a letter or use an automated phone call to notify customers when there is a problem.”
Matthews said caller ID showed the call was coming from area code 801- a Utah prefix, where Rocky Mountain Power is located.
“When he said, ‘You can’t pay the technicians you have to give us a card number over the phone,’ I went to my phone bill and got the 800- number and called it,” she says.
Hymas says, “Rocky Mountain Power never calls and demands immediate payment. We work with customers who are past due on their bills to get them back on track. And, the employees would never ask for credit card information or any other form of payment.”
BBB called the 801- number provided to Matthews and it was not answered. However, Matthews says she called back the same day.
“I did call the guy back and I told him who I was,” she says. “I said, ‘You called me this morning, and you told me the technicians were on their way, but they haven’t showed up yet. This is a scam!”
Matthews says the tipoff was the $900 overdue bill. With air conditioning, ovens, coolers running in the summertime, she said the small café wouldn’t use that much electricity in three months.
Here are some tips:
- If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card, this is a red flag. Your utility company will accept a check or credit card.
- If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will make sure you are speaking to a real representative.
- Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.