SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — To run a fan or air conditioner in this heat, you need power. Some people are paying a lot of money to keep their electricity on, but the problem is that money is not going to Western Mass. Electric.
It’s going to scammers instead.
Priscilla Ress from Western Mass. Electric says, “The reason we think the scam is hitting now is because we’re in the middle of a heat wave and the last thing people want to happen right now is their power to go out , so they’re vulnerable and that’s what scam artists look for.”
WMECo customers are being told over the phone unless they put money on a prepaid “Green Dot” debit card and then tell these people the PIN, their power will get turned off in one to four hours.
One customer spent as much as $1,000 to keep her lights on, but Ress adds, “they were never in any danger of being shut off and she just put a $1,000 dollars in the pocket of a scammer.”
Springfield Police Officer Charles Youmans wants people to be aware and skeptical of anybody asking for money over the phone.
If in doubt, call the electric company itself.
“You get your electric bills through the mail so now all the sudden someone’s gonna call you and talk about how ‘You need to pay me right now or I’m gonna shut your power off?’ I don’t think so,” Youmans says.
In addition, if someone from the electric company shows up at your house, employees cannot accept payment in the field, they will not ask for it, and they cannot take it, says WMECo.
Bob Coates, Western Mass. Electric’s Vice President of Customer Operations, says in a statement that “WMECo does not operate this way and we are urging customers to be on alert for this type of scam and we have been in contact with law enforcement officials investigating the case.”
Those WMECo customers that are subject to service disconnection due to nonpayment receive a written notice from them, which includes actions needed to maintain their electricity. Those actions do not require the purchase of a pre-paid card.
If anyone receives one of these calls, and suspects that the caller make be making a false claim of being a WMECo employee, you are urged to immediately end the call and contact WMECo at 1-877-OK-WMECO (659-6326)