Austintown business victim of $1,100 utility bill scam - News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Austintown business victim of $1,100 utility bill scam

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The operator of an Austintown business tells police he was scammed out of more than $1,100.

According to a police report, a Mahoning Avenue florist received a call on Wednesday from someone claiming to be from Ohio Edison.

The caller claimed that the businesses electric bill was sixty days overdue, and if it wasn't paid right away, a technician would be over to turn off the power.

The owner asked the caller if he could speak to a supervisor and was connected to someone identifying himself as Rich Lewis.

The alleged supervisor repeated that the bill was overdue, and instructed the owner to buy three Green Dot Money Pak cards from a Rite Aid, two in the amount of $395 and one for $390.

Once the owner bought the cards and called back with the numbers, the scammer said he would cancel the order to turn off the power.

MoneyPak is a prepaid card purchased at retailers, allowing consumers to make same-day payments to major companies

According to the FirstEnergy website, this is a widespread scam which frequently targets small businesses.

A telephone caller poses as an electric utility company employee. The caller threatens to shut off the customer’s power unless an immediate payment is made.

In many cases, the customer is told to use a pre-paid debit card, such as a Green Dot/MoneyPak card, or a money transfer service like Money Gram or Western Union. In at least one case, the victim was directed to pay in person at a physical location.

FirstEnergy says it is important for potential victims to know the facts.

  • If your account is past due, you will receive a written notice of your account status, with instructions on how to avoid disconnection of service.
  • While our representative may call a customer whose bill is in arrears in order to remind them that a payment is due, the representative would explain how a payment can be made using our established payment options. They will not demand payment over the phone or at a particular physical location.
  • Our utilities do not accept prepaid debit cards or wire transfers as payment, and our representatives will not demand your bank information or credit card number over the phone.

What should you do:

If you receive a suspicious call, hang up immediately.

Be aware that scammers often use Caller ID spoofing software to misrepresent the source of a phone call, or provide you with a fake "verification" phone number. These call-back numbers may even include exact replicas of company greetings and hold messaging. If you would like to verify your account status, always call the FirstEnergy Customer Service department using the numbers on their website, or log in to your account on our website.

If you believe you have been a victim of this scam, please contact your local police department or your state attorney general’s office.

If you have purchased a Green Dot card to pay your electric bill and would like to request a refund from Green Dot/MoneyPak, visit

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