NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Scam artists are coming up with all kinds of creative ways to steal money from unsuspecting victims.
Several small businesses in Nashville have received a call from someone claiming to be the Nashville Electric Service, saying they need to pay up–only to find out it was a scam.
At Minx Hair Boutique on Jefferson Street in Nashville, hair is their business.
“We are an exclusive provider of Minx Brazilian hair, which is straight and body wave,” said owner Robin Hereford.
About two weeks ago, things began to get a little hairy when a worker received a disturbing phone call.
“[He] shared with her that our power was going to be disconnected that afternoon due to a lack of non-payment,” said owner Darrius Hereford.
The caller said he was with NES and claimed the business was two months behind on their electric bill. The man said power would be shut off within the hour unless they went to Kroger and purchased an Express Money Pak for immediate payment.
“Load it up with the funds and be careful not to scratch off certain areas of the card, and call back and give them some sort of number off the card and that would halt the disconnect,” Darrius Hereford said.
The owners said they offered to go to the NES office on Church Street and pay instead, but the man on the other end wasn’t having it.
“They told us we owe $498.99,” Robin Hereford said. “They got a little bit more combative and now they were asking me for information.”
There were too many red flags. The couple later called NES and double-checked their online bill pay. Their bill was current.
“Then I was frustrated, and then angry,” Robin Hereford told News 2.
Darrius added, “More than likely, you start peeling back the onion you’ll discover, it’s a scam.”
With scams involving unsuspecting businesses out of their hard-earned money on the rise, NES has issued a warning to customers informing them about the scam.
“Scammers have gotten very creative in finding unique ways in trying to target customers,” spokesperson Laurie Powell said. “You know, it is unfortunate that they are trying to prey upon customers who think that they will be shut off for not paying their bill.”
NES officials said if someone calls threatening to cut off your power if you don’t pay, hang up. They also advise to never give personal or financial information to an unsolicited caller.
NES also said it will never come to your home and request payment.
“It is unfortunate that they are trying to prey upon customers who think that they will be shut off for not paying their bill,” Powell said.
NES officials said they also never use a toll free number for customers to make payments.
The Herefords told News 2 they decided to call their scammer back.
“Thanks for call NES Electric this is Josh. How may I help you?” a man who answered the phone said.
“Yes, Josh I had some question about our power bill. We had gotten a notice about a disconnect,” Darrius Hereford said.
For the most part, the call sounded legit. But this time, the business owners were instructed to go a nearby RiteAid and purchase a Money Pak card and load $400 on it or else.
“There is an order of disconnection that’s going to be happening in about 30 to 45 minutes,” Josh told them.
It was then the couple confronted the man.
“Is this a scam?” Darrius Hereford questioned. “There is a reporter standing right here. Our account, we checked with NES, and it’s current and FYI we have a news reporter here listening to this whole conversation.”
The call then abruptly ended.
“Unbelievable,” Robin Hereford said.
“They’re good and they sound very authentic, but it’s a scam,” Darrius Hereford said.
A lesson learned for the owners of Minx Hair Boutique, but unfortunately, so many others businesses have already fallen victim.
NES officials said the best way to deal with these type calls is to just hang up. If you feel you are victim, call your local police department.