Orange County News

Imposters behind SoCal Edison phone scam put OC restaurant owner out $2K

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Southern California Edison customers beware: A new phone scam is going around. Callers posing as Southern California Edison employees claim your electricity will be cut off if you don't pay up.

Noriko Weinstein tries to be conscientious. Her Santa Ana restaurant, Benjies, has been in business for more than 40 years.

When someone claiming to be with SCE called and told her the power would be cut off in 30 minutes if she didn't pay her bill right away, she panicked.

"The lunch crowd is coming in, what can I do?" she said. "People will be stuck with no food, no lights, so first thing in my mind was I got to stop this process."

Weinstein says her bill was not due for two weeks, but the caller convinced her she had missed a warning letter. She felt she didn't have time to double-check with SCE.

"I said I forget it, I'm going to listen to what he has to say and follow his instruction," she said.

The caller told her to use cash to buy Green Dot prepaid cards to cover the $2800 bill. She then provided the card numbers to the caller so he could get the money. It was untraceable.

"It makes it difficult for the detectives to follow the case because they could be doing this from anywhere," said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

When Weinstein realized she had been duped, she had already paid $2,000.

"It was a horrible feeling, believe me, like, 'Oh my gosh why!'" Weinstein said.

Weinstein is among more than a dozen businesses to report getting scammed by Edison imposters since January. The loss per business is between $1200 to $1500.

"We will not do that and we will not do that by a phone call," said Pat Buttress, an SCE spokesperson. "We will not do that, we will not do it by a phone call, we are never going to turn around and tell you you've got 30 min to do that."

SCE and the Santa Ana Police Department also advise SCE customers to also note:

- An SCE employee will never ask for money in person.

- Never reveal your credit card, ATM, calling card numbers or PIN numbers to anyone.

- If someone calls and requests you to leave your residence at a specific time for a utility-related cause, call the police. It could be a burglary set up by the caller.

- Be suspicious of anyone who arrives at your house without an appointment asking to check an appliance, wiring, or suggesting that there may be some other electrical problem inside your residence.

Anyone who believes they have been a victim in this scam is urged to call Southern California Edison at 1-800-655-4555. Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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scams, orange county news, eileen frere
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