WARNING: Scam targeting local residents and businesses

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A scam is circulating in the Benton and surrounding area in which crooks posing as SWEPCO representatives are contacting people threatening to cut off their electricity if they don’t make payment via a Green Dot pre-paid card.  

This week the Benton Police Department and the Bossier Sheriff’s Office have received multiple complaints from residents and businesses stating that someone from SWEPCO called them and stated their electric bill is overdue and that a worker will come by to turn off their service.  

The co-called SWEPCO rep even provides the unsuspecting customers relevant information, such as their current amount due, their previous month’s bill, and end-of-service dates, all to sound quite convincing. 

Additionally, the scammers provide a work order number in order to sound legitimate.  The “representative” then tells the customers to call another number to pay their bill.  When customers make that call, they are advised to go purchase a Green Dot card and then relay the number from that pre-paid card to the crooks.  Once they do that, the money is transferred…and long gone. 

Benton Police and Bossier Sheriff’s Office have contacted AEP SWEPCO about the situation, and the power company wants to advise customers that they do not conduct business this way. 

SWEPCO’s director of customer services and marketing Brett Mattison said, “SWEPCO employees will never demand immediate payment, insist a payment be made with a prepaid credit card or ask a customer to meet us in a parking lot to make a payment. We want our customers to protect themselves from this fraudulent activity.” 

Scammers are preying on folks during these hot summer months with threats of their electricity being turned off, and that’s not something anyone wants to hear when the temps are around 100 degrees. 

Benton Chief of Police Charles Pilkinton and Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington advise residents that scammers are using tactics that appeal to people’s emotions and sensitivity, especially targeting the elderly and during times such as now and during the holiday season. 

Here’s how you can avoid becoming a victim of this SWEPCO scam: 

  • Hang up the phone and call SWEPCO immediately at 1-888-216-3523 to verify correct information about your account.  If, in fact, the account is overdue, SWEPCO will work with you to resolve the matter.  THEY WILL NOT ASK THAT YOU PURCHASE A GREEN DOT PREPAID CARD. 
  • Never provide personal information over phone such as bank account numbers, user names and passwords, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers…UNLESS you know are talking with a legitimate business or source. 
  • Contact your local law enforcement agency to report the scam.  For the Benton Police Department and Bossier Sheriff’s Office, call the dispatch line 24-hours-a-day at (318) 9652203. 
  • Contact your local police through their non-emergency telephone number and report the scam. Please also call SWEPCO at 1-888-216-3523 to report the scam. SWEPCO is working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute scammers.Additionally, if you receive an e-mail or personal visit from someone claiming to be a representative of SWEPCO threatening to shut off your service, immediately contact SWEPCO at 1-888-216-3523. 
  • SWEPCO also provides a wealth of information regarding fraud and scams at https://swepco.com/account/bills/scams/default.aspx 

Chief Pilkinton and Sheriff Whittington encourage residents and business owners to always contact law enforcement if something doesn’t feel right.  Scammers are becoming more sophisticated in their ways, but taking a few safety measures can keep you from becoming a victim. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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