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CONSUMER ALERT

'Utility Scam' on the rise

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SRP and APS say the scam is a growing problem, and they don’t want small business owners or people with residential accounts to be victimized. (Source: 3TV) SRP and APS say the scam is a growing problem, and they don’t want small business owners or people with residential accounts to be victimized. (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

Ronnie Yagudave owns a barbershop called Uptown Barber in Central Phoenix, just off of Bethany Home Road and 16th Street.

"My grandparents were barbers when they immigrated to this country. I have uncles and cousins that are barbers," he said.

Yagudave and his talented employees have helped make his barber shop a success. But even Yagudave acknowledges that their work would be difficult -- if not impossible -- if they didn't have electricity to operate all of their grooming tools. 

"We have all kinds of power tools," he said. "We have blow-dryers, vacuums, razors. Ceiling fans and AC. Without power, we can't work."

You can imagine his concern when his barbershop got a phone call recently from someone claiming to be with SRP. The guy on the other end had disturbing news. 

"Basically, he tells me, 'We're shutting your power down in one hour,' and I asked him why," Yagudave recalled. "He said, 'Because you failed to make a payment,' and I said, 'I did make a payment.' And, he said, 'Look, I'm just trying to do my job, and your power is going off in one hour.'"

Yagudave says he panicked, but the caller had a quick resolution. All he needed to do to keep his power from being shut off in one hour was to immediately go out and buy a prepaid Visa card. He was then supposed to scratch off the numbers on the back and provide those numbers to the caller in order to pay his $400 electric bill.

Yagudave, however, was suspicious and told the guy he would call him back.

After contacting the real SRP and finding out it was a scam, Yagudave called the con man back and gave him a piece of his mind. It was captured on cell phone video. 

"Did you feel pretty good telling him off?" I asked.

"It felt great, but at the same time, I was like, wow. People like that really exist," he said.

Both SRP and APS have warnings on their websites telling residential and business customers not to fall for the scam.

Still, Yagudave can't believe how persistent and argumentative the scammer seemed to be, even after being exposed. 

"He told me that I was a deadbeat," Yagudave said. "He says, 'You're a deadbeat, and you should pay your bill.' And I'm like, 'I'm a deadbeat because I didn't pay my scam bill?' I don't get it."  

APS and SRP tell me the scam is a growing problem, and they don’t want small business owners or people with residential accounts to be victimized. 

In fact, SRP tells 3 On Your Side that 159 businesses have complained about the scam over the last six months, and 10 actually paid the bogus bill.

ONGOING PROBLEM: Valley businesses targeted with utility scam (Aug. 4, 2014)

On the residential side, 23 customers have been targeted as far as the utility company knows; one did pay.

The scammers are very convincing, so you have to be careful.  When they call you, for example, SRP or APS will come up on your caller ID because the scammers have spoofed their numbers to trick you.

Whatever you do, do not give the caller any personal information.

Knowledge is power

  • SRP's scam warning -- 602-236-8888 (residential) or 602-236-8833 (business)
  • APS's scam warning --  602- 371-7171 (residential in the Phoenix-metro area), 1-800-253-9405 (residential, other areas), 602-371-6767 (business in the Phoenix-metro area) or 1-800-253-9407 (business, other area)
  • TEP -- 520-623-7711

If you believe you were the victim of a scam, report it to the Arizona Attorney General's Office. You can file a complaint online or call 602-542-5763 (Phoenix), 520-628-6504 (Tucson), or toll-free outside metro Phoenix, 1-800-352-8431. You also can email consumerinfo@azag.gov.

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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