A message from Chief Holland with the Highlands Police Department:
Several residents in the Highlands area have reported phone calls from scammers misrepresenting themselves as Duke Power employees and Publisher’s Clearinghouse representatives.
In the last week, telephone calls from individuals claiming to be Duke Power employees have increased. The frauds claim that the individual’s power will be turned off within thirty to forty-five minutes for non-payment. Two victims told the scammers that they paid bills online. The scammers then claimed that Duke power was revising the website and that letters had gone out advising people to avoid paying online for a specific time as their payments would not be credited properly. The caller then instructs the person to go to an online website called Zelle to make a payment or asks them to proceed to a large retailer to purchase a Moneypak gift card. They claim that Duke will reimburse this money as soon as the website is back up and running. The scammers tell their victims to remain on the line with them so that the technicians will not turn off their power, keeping victims from calling their bank and Duke Power to verify the caller’s claims.
In reality, Duke Power will not call customers about billing issues and will never ask the customer to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid electric service disconnection. Customers can make payments online, by phone, by automatic bank draft, mail, or in person.
Duke will send multiple notifications to customers with delinquent accounts several weeks before electric service disconnection.
The residents who reported callers representing themselves as Publisher’s Clearinghouse said these scammers tell victims they have won the grand prize but must pay upfront to collect. Similarly, these con artists instruct their victims to purchase gift cards and mail them to a specific address. The monetary amounts that these people ask for vary and once these gift cards are mailed, they cannot be recovered.
Another scam sends an email claiming a friend of the email recipient has been injured in a car wreck and needs money. Anytime you receive a call, text, email or any other means of communication asking for money, make sure you verify any information you receive, prior to sending any money.
The Highlands Police Department urges anyone who receives this type of call to hang up immediately.