Johnson City Power Board warns of latest phone scam

Tony Casey • Oct 16, 2013 at 7:30 AM

The Johnson City Power Board is alerting all of its 76,000-plus customers of a phone scam that targets credit card information.

JT McSpadden, communications specialist for the JCPB, said although less than 10 customers have reported claims of the attempted scam, there could be more who have been contacted who haven’t notified authorities.

He said from the information given, it seems like the culprit is a Hispanic-sounding person, or persons, targeting other Hispanics. According to a JCPB news release, the scammers have been pressuring customers to give their credit card information to pay delinquent balances, to pay charges incurred on faulty meters, or to buy prepaid gift cards to avoid disconnection of their power and additional charges.

Most of the claims have been from residential locations, and only the most recent has been a commercial location. McSpadden said that because power is a ubiquitous utility, and since no one wants to have their power turned off, the scammers are able to scare customers into giving their credit card information.

The JCPB, which serves customers in Washington, Sullivan, Carter and Greene counties, has had several cases of similar scams in the last few months. This most recent one occurred Tuesday, when on two occasions people were contacted, both from the same phone number.

According to the release, a Johnson City Police Department investigator has been assigned to handle the case and is looking into the phone number.

Police and Power Board officials are urging anyone who gets contacted by anyone suspicious to record the caller identification information if possible.

McSpadden said the JCPB will never ask a customer for their payment information outright, and the only time they will do so is when they forward them to a safe automated bill-paying system.

“If customers have any questions about something suspicious going on, we urge them to hang up and call the Power Board back to ensure they’re talking to the right people. We won’t be offended,” McSpadden said.

He said the JCPB is not in the business of issuing or soliciting prepaid gift cards.

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