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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


Never give out any info or wire money. Ask for a return number or contact whatever service or company they say they represent. In most cases, they will disconnect. Scammers are getting quite well at tricking you.

Scammers have actually been using the Do Not Call List to call numbers on the list. They assume the number is valid because it was verified by the FTC. This needs to stop. There is technology that reveals the true phone number of a spoofed caller. Why isn't it being used and laws enforced?

In my opinion, the federal, state and local government needs to search out and destroy these scammers by any means possible. Start with catching one and putting them behind bars in a public venue / across the internet as a example. Find a second one and make it worse for them; find a third and make it even more worse for them, etc.,.. Fire any liberal judges who dispute any part of the consequences...Continue and any country that supports this thievery should be severely sanctioned by the US and allies along with extracting the guilty by any means and taking the appropriate harsh action against them. in my opinion.

My Samsung S5 has a Do not disturb that has settings for exceptions such as calls from people in my contacts list. I leave the do not disturb on all the time, all others can call my home.

My 79yo mother received one of these, pretending to be her grandson ... in jail .... Finally, she called me. I told her it was a scam, messaged her grandson, he called her and told her it was a scam .... She had been broken-hearted all day long until she called me and he called her. What broke her heart the most? She had to tell "her (pretending to be) grandson" she couldn't help him because she didn't have any money. Because ... she doesn't actually have any money. ... Maybe that will get her on the underground "Do Not Call" list now. We hope.

I'm surprised you're just now hearing about this. My grandma had this happen to her about 4 years ago with a professional scammer outfit that copied talking lines, caller prompts, masked her ISP'S phone number & name on her caller ID.

I see a recurring theme in the questions here. And my husband asks this every time he gets an unwanted call - WHY CAN'T THESE SCAMMERS BE STOPPED?? My information is circulating on the dark web - I've put every kind of protection in place, including Life Lock and now I've frozen my credit report (SS#) with all three agencies. Like everyone on this thread, I NEVER ANSWER CALLS I DON'T RECOGNIZE. I just get frustrated because of family members who still get harassed every few months when these bogus calls come, looking for me. This has been going on nearly 7 years. I even changed my number two years ago, but inside a year, "they" found me! I just don't answer, block the number, and report them on and other scam buster websites. All our stories sound the same...and the crooks just seem to multiply and get more sophisticated. I do all I can to be a peace - in these turbulent times. And part of that means I have resigned myself to accepting this as the times we live in. YUCK!

I don't answer my phone unless I recognize the number. When I do recognize the number, I create a contact for it with the person's name. Then when they call again, I know exactly who is calling and there are no mistakes. I keep getting calls from 866-432-1680, but I don't know who it is, so i never answer them; In fact, I reject the calls. i reject any calls i do not recognize, as my phone does not have a way to block unknown calls.

You can call your service provider and it can be blocked. More than likely, you can even go to the providers website and the option is there for a block list. It’s pretty standard these days that providers have that feature for you.

Whenever I get a call from a no. I do not know, I just block it. I wait for a voice to come on b4 I do but I have always been right, when "they" call back 3-4-5 times it rings once and finally they stop. My family/friend always let me know it's them.

Happened a lot when I worked at walgreens..
Had a lady and her son bring in a laptop (idk why, we don't repair them) he got a virus from a scammer wanting them to purchase a green dot card... Instead I hooked the laptop up to the WiFi and installed free antivirus that fixed it. The mom was literally in tears thinking that the CIA wanted her to pay $500. SMH

This is an ongoing scam! 2 years ago a fellow business owner received the same call and went and bought over $800 in MoneyPaks and called the number back. When they told me I said I wished they had called me first because that would have to be a scam! Our power company does not accept payments like that! Sure enough, they called the power company and they had not had anyone call and their money was never recovered! Always check things out, even call your state attorney general if there is a chance you are being scammed, you will most likely never see money lost through those means again!
Lawyer, many cashiers are alert to today's scams and stop many! Alot are even trained to be aware and catch scams.

My husband and I had a call once ages ago. I think it was about Solar Panels rebate here in Australia. My husband was trying to get the details from the caller and he threatened to report them. The caller started calling my husband names and even threatened to burn our house down because "he knew where we lived". Needless to say, nobody turned up. My husband reported the call.

Also, I'm sure you all know about the payday cash loans. They'll call and say you owe a certain amount and they have info from old jobs and home addresses. Then when you tell them you owe nothing, they badger and threaten you by saying you'll get served and go to jail. I told them to go ahead and send the sheriff out or better yet, I'll turn myself in. That ticked the caller off really bad and I ended the call. Three minutes later another one called with threats, demanding I better pay her friend or I'm going to be arrested. So what collection company refer to one of their reps as a friend?

I got a call the other night saying that my "social security number had been suspended" & they gave me a number to call the, but first I called the real social security office & they said there was no such thing as "suspending your social security number".

I got a email stating my BofA credit/debit card had a block on it. I do not have anything BofA. I call them they said it was a scam. If you have BofA becareful!

If you have time, do what a guy in a video I watched did. Play along with them and tie up their phone line and waste their time, then after some time goes by, tell them you have no intention of doing anything they ask. "How did it feel to be played with?" They will hang up and not call you for a long time.

we get 20 calls a day frontier said call Tina Picket what a joke she can t do anything this sucks

I had a call and they said they were its but called me by my nick name . They had left a message for me to call them back so I did and played along for a bit, then gave them a hard time and they hung up on me so I called back again and the man told me not to call back. Since then I've had about 5 more IRS calls. But just hang up! The IRS does not call you!!!

Best Advice: Do not answer any call that you don't recognize. That's what I do and eventually they stop calling when keep getting answering machine.

kudos to the store clerk. I could only hope it was one that our PD trained to look for customers purchasing pre-paid cards to pay a scammers and tell them to call 911 right away. Many of our students are international students so we decided to train store clerks in our area to assist with the mass number of scams on our college campus.

Thank you for alerting us to this probllem.

There are some that I know of, for example, “The Medical Team”, “Federal Grants Department”, and most commonly used by scammers- The IRS. The problem is consumers data being shared over the web, which obviously includes phone number and bad guys misusing it for personal gain yet cell phone carriers and government turns blind eye into the matter. Welcome to inner core of capitalism. After all, government is not going to shut off its economy driving catalysts. However, bad chemicals did squeezes seeing massive opportunities to prey on innocents. So unfortunate!! These days I am not answering unknown numbers, especially with +1 followed by 10 digits, or all 1-888-888-8888, etc

Another barely impactful but vastly needed govt. protection destroyed by the dismantler in chief. You thought it outrageous that vets weren't getting basic support svcs. required as result of their duty and for which they were promised care if needed? You should prepare yourself for the rioting sure to follow total theft and removal of Social Security -in spite of having pre-paid that social contract over 45 years. Not to mention every other safety net program and legal protection in line for destruction by this administration who believe they will escape with more than enough to insure they survive.

Thank you for your comment. I've been thinking the same thing!

Totally agree that the do not call list is useless.

I've been getting scam calls 4 several years now. 1st it was IRS, threatening jail, knew it was a scan but this went on for at least 4 yrs. Then it was my computer has issues, again, knew it was a scam. Now it's computers and Insurance scams. The problem is they call from a different number every time. Most seem to be out of state but how can I stop them. Too many numbers to block. What can I do?

the "fake" IRS just called my job. Washington dc number popped up as well as a city Guebling, France was listed on the id!

Those who say the store clerk is underemployed are completely wrong. Store clerks SHOULD be intelligent thinking people. The problem with society is everybody is overemployed, that's how we end up with idiots in every job.

I received a mailing with the same scam pitch. from these folks. Isn’t that also mail fraud.?

These people are also using the U.S. Mail to attempt this same scam. And the form letter looks very official but, of course, has no prices. The kicker is I don’t even own a car!!!!

My problem is that I'm on the transplant list, waiting for a kidney. I can't block calls because the call that an organ is available can come from any nurse on duty when the organ comes in. That could be any area code, depending on their cell service. So I need to answer all calls. It's annoying and heartbreaking to get these scams, which are at least twice a day. I block each number as it comes in, but they just get new numbers and hound me again.

I have had all of the above calls. I especially enjoy the IRS one that says the sending the sheriff to arrest me. It is done in a voice that is pieced together from various recordings, who do they think they're fooling? The latest ones are using phone numbers with the local prefixes so you think it MIGHT be someone you know and since the number is bogus it does no good to report it. Even more annoying, I am now getting text messages also. I am using a free app on my cell phone and it does cut out most of them.

They are now using the mother received a letter in the mail that used the telephone number. It said that her service policy on her car was expiring. I am so glad she called me before paying it. Told her to hold on to it jic

A friend of mine just received one of these letters. Is there anything the FTC can do about this? This fraud should be penalized.


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