The Hoisington Police Department responded to the report of a FRAUD/SCAM to a local business. Investigation revealed that a male caller had contacted a Hoisington business alleging they had not paid their City utility bill for two months.
The caller demanded that the business pay their bill via a pre-paid debit card. When the business refused to do so, the caller left the name Derrick Bailey ID # 01-3259 and provided a call back number of (800) 377-4074.
Hoisington City Manager Jonathan Mitchell said when the city learned of the scam, they began doing some investigating on the internet. When they performed a Google search of the caller’s information, they found that the city of High Springs, Fla., had been hit by a caller using the same name and phone number.
He also stated that the business owner had called the phone number of the caller back, and received a pre-recorded message for the City of Hoisington electricity company. City workers called the number to verify, but by that time, the recording had been changed to mimic the utility of another city.
The Great Bend Tribune also attempted to return a call to the company, and reached a similar recording.
“Thank you for calling Payco Energy. All of our agents are currently assisting other customers. Please wait while we try to connect you,” the crudely electronic female voice stated. Soft jazz music played until the voice instructed to “press 1” at any time to leave a voice message. Finally, the voice returned, “No one is available at this time. Please leave a detailed message for the person you are trying to reach.”
As a rule, the city does not call customers, but mails out bills and second notices, the city clerk reported. They take payment via credit card over the phone as a courtesy customers, but it is not solicited.
In April of 2013, the Better Business Bureau reported an identical scam on its website, adding that prepaid debit cards are hard to trace, and do not need photo identification to collect or spend the money, as is required now for wire transfers. Readers were also urged to treat a prepaid debit card like cash and remember that transactions cannot be reversed.
The City of Hoisington warns customer if they receive a call like this, please do not provide payment over the phone, but call the city directly at 620-653-4125. Also, never give personal information over the phone, but hang up and call the customer service number on your utility bill.
This scam is just one among many utility scams that have been perpetrated in recent years, requiring the vigilance of utilities customers on all fronts, from electronic mail fraud to telephone fraud.