Restaurant warns other businesses after being targeted by NES scam

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – After a Nashville restaurant was targeted by an NES scam over the weekend, its owners are now warning others.

Papacito Nashville on Gallatin Pike in Inglewood opened under a new name and ownership about a month ago. Over the weekend, someone called and pretended to be from the Nashville Electric Service.

“We are a little overwhelmed because it was after Cinco de Mayo and we were out of a bunch of stuff,” owner Benjamin Camarena said. “They said they were going to cut the power. We are a new restaurant so we cannot have that happen.”

The person called the restaurant around 12:30 p.m. and said by 2:30 p.m. the electricity would be turned off if Camarena did not pay the bill immediately.

Photo: WKRN

The person instructed him to get pre-paid credit cards and send $1,000.

“They seemed very professional and we believed it,” he said. “We went to Kroger and bought pre-paid cards to make the payment.”

When Camerena paid the first $1,000, the scammers told him the payment didn’t work so he needed to go back to get more. In all, he sent $2,000.

The next day, Camerena said he realized it was all a scam and NES never called him.

He filed a police report and put a warning from NES on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“It made me angry and really sad,” Camarena told News 2. “They played me like a fool.”

Photo: WKRN

NES warned customers on its website about scammers who pretend to be from the utility and “spoof” the NES number on caller ID.

The utility also said small business owners, non-English speaking customers, and the elderly are frequent targets of the scam.

Camarena said he thinks that is why the scammers targeted him.

NES tells customers to hang up on people who call threatening to cut off your power. They also remind customers to never give personal or financial information to an unsolicited caller and NES does not provide a toll free number to call for making a payment.

If someone comes to your door claiming to be from NES for unscheduled work, NES said you should have the person wait outside and call them at 615-736-6900 to verify that the person is from the utility.

All day Thursday, News 2 will look into scams affecting Middle Tennessee.