After restaurant is targeted twice, police warn of utility scam

FAIRHAVEN, Mass. (WPRI) — Police are warning people and businesses to watch out for a costly case of phone fraud.

The Phoenix Restaurant in Fairhaven was tricked out of approximately $2,000 last year when someone posing as the electric company called during rush hour and threatened to shut off their power if they didn’t pay up, according to police.

Last week, the scammers called back and this time the restaurant was ready.

“What this business owner said to the person on the phone was they could pay cash if they wanted to send somebody down, they’d pay them when they arrived,” Fairhaven Police Sgt. Kevin Kobza said. “Last year, unfortunately, at this time they did get scammed out of the money of approximately $2,000, so this time they were a little bit wise to them.”

Police stress that these types of calls are scams, saying that if money was due, notices would be received in the mail.

If you’re not sure if you’re behind on bills, police say you should hang up and call the utility company directly to ask if there is a problem with your account.

“Do not give any information out,” Kobza said. “Any utility company, any government agency is not going to call you and threaten to shut off utilities or demand money from you. If you’re receiving a call like this, it’s a fraudulent call, OK? Do not believe it for a second.”

The fraud seems to target busy restaurants during rush hour in an attempt to confuse and coax information out of busy employees.

Police say with tax season around the corner, Southern New Englanders should be prepared for similar fraudulent calls by people posing as IRS agents.