The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday May 19th

Billing scam targets 6 Carrboro businesses

Carrboro businesses and residents are the latest victims of a nationwide phone scam from someone posing as a Duke Energy employee.

Six Carrboro businesses have been targeted so far, according to police reports.

The people placing these unsolicited phone calls usually warn customers that their bills are past due and someone will be dispatched to their residence or business to turn off their electricity unless a payment is made using a prepaid debit card immediately, according to a Duke Energy press release.

Capt. Chris Atack with the Carrboro Police Department said the phone call scams in Carrboro began Tuesday. Atack said most reports have come from businesses on the Main Street corridor.

“It’s almost like someone is going down a directory of businesses in Carrboro and just calling them,” he said. “It’s designed to pressure someone into giving personal information.”

Duke Energy representative Paige Layne said these calls began two or three years ago. She said they have not occurred in concentrated areas but have cropped up all over the country.

“Usually customers know when they’re coming up on disconnection, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise,” Layne said. “Customers should always contact us or check their accounts online.”

Michael Benson, owner of Southern Rail, posted on Facebook that his business was targeted by the scammers on Tuesday. 

In his post, Benson said the scammers told one of his managers to make a cash payment immediately at Walmart or Food Lion, and, fearing that the power would be shut off on St. Patrick’s Day, the manager complied.

Benson said when he called Duke Energy the next day, he was informed of the scam and assured that his payments were up to date.

Police don't yet know who is behind the calls.

“With technology, these calls could be coming from overseas or next door," Atack said.

Lt. Josh Mecimore, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said the calls have occurred in Chapel Hill as well.

“If someone is asking you to give an untraceable form of payment, they are doing something they shouldn’t be,” Mecimore said. “Thank them for their call, and tell them you’re going to call Duke Energy to verify that the call is legitimate.”

Layne said the calls are most likely being made by an organized ring outside the country and that police and federal agencies have been working to solve this issue.

“If you call them, they’ll talk to you and tell you what they are doing,” Layne said. “They said, ‘Good luck catching us.’”

Atack said anyone who experiences one of these phone call scams should file a police report so the department can get a better idea of the frequency and location of the calls.

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