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Scam spotted thanks to a clever store clerk

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You’re going about your normal day at work when, suddenly, there’s a call that looks like it’s from your electric company. That’s what the caller ID shows, and what the person on the line says. The voice on the line tells you that, because of late payments, the power to your business is about to be cut off. Without power, you can’t keep your business running, so that’s an emergency. Or is it?

The next line of the story tells you that this not an emergency at all. Instead, it’s a straight-up scam. Because the caller next tells you to go to the store right away and buy a cash reload card. And the caller wants the card’s PIN code – which, of course, means the money is gone right away. But no legitimate business – and certainly no legitimate power company – will ever demand that you pay with cash reload cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla Reload. Or insist that you pay with a gift card or by wiring money.

Luckily, several people who’ve reported this scam to the FTC figured out it was a scam before they sent the money. At least one uncovered it thanks to a store clerk who spotted the scam for what it was and stopped the transaction in its tracks. But give everybody you know these reminders, whether you’re at home or at work:

  • Caller ID can be faked, so the person on the phone is not always who caller ID says it is.
  • Never wire money, put money on a cash reload card or gift card and give the PIN code to anyone who asks you to. The person who insists on one of those forms of payment is scamming you, so tell the FTC about them.
  • If someone threatens to cut off your power, get off the phone, look up the real power company number, and check with them before you do anything.

And, maybe, the next time you see an attentive clerk at the store, thank them for having your back.

Tagged with: imposter, phone, scam
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


I want to hear more about the store clerk. Sounds like he/she might be underemployed!

I read the article for the store clerk but I'm disappointed

why would you be disappointed

That attitude is the reason these lowlifes get away with this behavior in the first place. If everyone had a little more compassion and a little less slamming, they would not be able to get away with this behavior. People used to look out for their neighbors and now it’s every person for themselves. That doesn’t seem to be working out to well does it ?

I agree wholeheartedly. Most store/medical clerks today are unfortunately stupid. The clerk who can actually think is gold.

Interesting idea. The idea of attorney's partnering with FTC to do the legwork and follow up with the cases. Then able to advocate for the victims/whistleblowers. Oh, the work and changes that could come from such ethical practices. (good luck)

I agree...

This happened to an elderly gentleman at my church. He was scammed into buying $6,000 worth of Itunes gift cards at a grocery store (in order to pay bail for his "nephew" that was supposedly in jail in Arizona.") Luckily, he spoke to a friend who quickly pointed out to him how unlikely it was that a police station would DO this! He was able to get his money back, thankfully.

How did he get his money back please?

tell me how you goy your money back i would like to get mine back

It said that he purchased Itunes cards , if you buy Itunes cards and you don’t scratch them off you can return them to the store where you purchased them . But they cannot be scratched off.


BTW: Do Not Call List is a useless ‘service’ now ... we have no control over the number of calls to our phones, landline or cell. I had to invest in a $100 call blocker to at least block the repeat calls ... repeat being every day, several of these kinds of calls ... and repeated thruout the week. Seniors on SS seem to be the largest target fo these scams ... selling junk and threatening us ... I stopped reporting to Do No Call List years ago ... no point, esp without enough CallerID info, these crooks hide themselves well, apparently the latest electronic equipment is being used by them. I NEVER answer my phone unless I know the name/number showing up ... latest is that medical facilities and drs are now hiding their CallerID name and only giving a phone number, some not even local ... so they get missed and/or blocked ... considering they have vital info to pass on, this is outrageous! Charities and political calls should have been on the Do Not Call List from the beginning ... and yet, they can badger us with calls all they want! Privacy for individual citizens? Non-existent. Intrusion into our day to day lives? They can get away with it. And no one has a way to stop this?

I agree with you there for sure, gets very annoying especially after a days work you want to set down for some TV,eat,read OR just plain catch some peace and quit.....WITHOUT outsiders intruding your privacy

Do Not call registry is absolutely useless.Can the govt. do something about this. I have been a victim of " High tech". About 6 months ago someone from India I opened my computer and it was blasted with super loud sound demanding me to call that flashing number and of course I complied and gave out my credit card number? What a fool? Tech ignoramus as I am, I panicked. When my husband arrived from work and I told him about it, he was ready to kill me for being so ignorant? So I called my bank and cancelled my credit card and oh! boy they called me ten times a day for one to two months of which I finally turned off my phone volume and periodically checked my land line and cell phone if any legitimate caller has called.It was a very stressful months for me,luckily,they did not succeed in withdrawing money from my credit card, but I'm sure that a lot of people were victimized. From this time onward, I NEVER answer anymore phone not unless, that person leave a message.

I agree. It's a nightmare!

I have a call blocker attached to my phone and as of today it has 230 calls blocked. EVERYONE I talk to complains about these harassing calls!!!

Use a recording device to recoRd the sound a fax macHine makes when it answers a call. Then when a suspect call comes, play that sound as soon as you pick up the call. The robocallers will automatically remove your number from their database.

You're right but there is a way to make it annoying for them. When they tell you to push 1 to get a live person do it and use a party air horn into the phone. It might not stop it but it's a little pay back.

I don't even know why that list exists. The government oversight committee and the FTC should fix this. Surely how hard can it be?

My senior citizen parents were so annoyed with all of the blatant scammers who called them constantly on their landline phone that they eventually canceled the service and got used to a life with cell phones and no traditional home phone service.

The thing that gets my dad upset is he feels like these people must have a lot of vulnerable people to take advantage of because they called him constantly. In other words, the scammers wouldn’t be so persistent if there wasn’t a lot of money to be made.

If you read the details of the "do not call" list, they can get a list of numbers from them supposedly to remove them from their calling list. I think charities just get the list to call everyone on it since they know the numbers are good & they're allowed to call.

My cable company's landline(internet phone service) has call blocking available on it system. Just use cable tv remote for caller ID Settings or call your cable company providing landline service for assistance.

very informative . it keeps me safe from scammers. thank you

The local power company is not always accessible by phone. The local power company where I live demands one's social security number (or a portion of it) before they will talk with a customer by phone. Most people know in these ID-theft days to NOT give out a social security number (or portion of it) so the power company makes itself NON-accessible by phone.

I am a business owner and have had these calls at leaset half a dozen times. Ge careful when you tell them you are going to report them. They will respond with profound profanity that will make your skin crawl!

Maybe they'd stop calling if you cuss them out first. I just don't answer.

My fantasy: Someone invents something similar to the "spam" button on your email account. If you suspect someone of a telephone scam, push a button on your phone that says "scam" and some type of an operator can record and report it -- hopefully live.



It exists! I think it's specific to the latest version of Android (I have a Pixel). When I get a spam call, 90% of the time the screen goes red and says SUSPECTED PHONE SPAM. It's brilliant!

Make it a trifecta, AGREED!

Scammers can't get me by phone because I won't answer anyone I don't know. Yesterday I got a letter saying my warranty is up with my car. I googled it and guess what it is a scam, now by letter. Don't call 1-800-795-8169. I knew my warranty on my car was long gone. I checked it out though anyway. Another way to scam people, by letter. It is Vehicle Services Department, 6400 Pinecrest Drive, Suite 400, Plano, Texas 75024-2959. Just a heads up on that one.

You should call the Post Master in your region. It's a Federal Offense to send fraudulent mail through the US Postal Service. That person (Poat Master) should be able to contact or give you the contact number to the Postal Inspectors. They must check out Fraud situations! Good Luck!

Most states have laws that protect consumers from utility shut-offs, even if the account is delinquent. There are numerous steps utility companies are required to take before shutting off a service. So, spotting a scam should be easy to do. If you get a call threatening your service, you should directly contact your utility's customer service department.

Awesome job he caught them but some are not so lucky

Had this happen to me, figured it to be scam but wanted to see how far this would go....the store clerk caught it instantly and explained everything...with kind but stern cautioning

Here is a quasi-scam by a (formerly, in my opinion) reputable organization. Yesterday, I received mail from AARP. The envelope stated that it was important information about my gift to AARP Foundation. Inside was an envelope addressed to AARP and a card stating that it was a reminder that my annual gift is due, asking me to fill in the amount of my gift and mail it and my gift to AARP in the enclosed envelope. I have never responded to a request for a gift to AARP Foundation. I believe that AARP is sending these "reminders" to their members to take advantage of those of us who are having memory issues. Illegal? probably not. Fraudulent? Possibly. Misleading? Definitely.

We had a similiar issue with AARP. We pay our Medicare supplement plan annually in early December to cover year 2018. Yesterday we received a bill from AARP in the amount to cover 3 months for our supplement plan and told us it was overdue and needed to be paid immediately or we would not have insurance. They suggested we call an 800 number and be paid by credit card. If we had not been mentally up to the
task we would have immediately paid for this. I went back and looked in my bank account and saw that it had been paid and cashed. We called the 800 number and told them if this ever happens again we will change our insurance to AMAC. We may do this anyway. Very upsetting!

I'm getting ready to report them as spam & after 18 years as a member doubt if I will renew again. I don't want to see an email from them every day & have unsubscribed numerous times. Most of the stuff they send is irrelevant to me anyway. They certainly are not grasping the real problems most of us are having with Social Security & Medicare. They sure aren't advocating for me, just using us these days to market things.

my dads store gets these types of calls on a day to day basis and my dad or i just just curse them out n hang up lol

Also scammers who claim they're calling from Microsoft Tech Support is doing dang near the same thing. Be very careful. You have to call them they don't call you. These scammer also want use the same methods. BEWARE!

I got a bunch of "Recorded Line" stuff but the Dingle Berry used the same name for about 4 different "Deals".
In Mid Tennessee look out for "Hi this is Joe"

I've gotten calls from "Joe" as well, I live in Tennessee, last time he called me, he tried using a different name, but I recognized the voice, I said to him, "Are you sure you're name's not Joe", he hung up, haven't heard from him since.

We keep getting live messages over our computer. Twice now, an amimatted voice echos our speakers saying "warning, this is Microsoft, someone is attempting to steal all your bank account information, your fb account and credit card accounts. Do not turn off your computer, call this number right away, if you turn off your computer, we will report your IP address and you WILL NOT be able to restart your computer, call the number". Sounds pretty crazy, it happened x2, both times, I turned off my computer, and nothing. BTW I did call, they said they were Microsoft and I needed to let them take control if my computer. Yeah, Right.

The question is... When is the FCC going to put rules in place to automatically block these calls when the number doesn't match the area code the call is coming from? The technology is there, but current FCC rules require the telecom companies to put through 'all' calls.

I have gotten calls at home threatening to cut off the power to the house without an immediate payment. It is on the answering machine message since I don't answer calls from numbers I do not know. I send nothing, the power is still on.

It’s like an infestation of scammers. Can’t keep up with them, thanks to technology and how antiquated state and fed systems are.

My sentiments, exactly.

No call list is a joke. I have been on the list for about 10 years and I get around 10 calls a day. The FCC is also a joke, they are powerless and do not care. Until recently I filed a complaint for each call, over 200 of them. I finally had to get a phone with call blocker.


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