According to Arizona Public Service, scammers have targeted several Phoenix restaurants within the last few weeks by threatening to shut off a restaurant's electricity and demanding payment over the phone. Less than a month ago the management of Scottsdale's FnB restaurant fell victim and paid $900 to scammers who claimed to be collecting overdue funds on behalf of the power company.
"I should have known something was fishy," says FnB's Pavle Milic. "But you just never think you're going to be the victim of [a] scam."
Milic says scammers called the restaurant less than five minutes before lunch service was supposed to start. Speaking to the restaurant's hostess, the person on the phone said the restaurant had not paid the electricity bill for two months and that the company would therefore be shutting off the power in the next 30 minutes. The person on the phone told Milic a truck was on the way to the restaurant.
In order to keep the power on the person on the phone then told Milic he would need to purchase a pre-paid debit card, call back, and provide the card number.
"Something didn't feel right but I didn't listen," Milic says.
Jenna Shaver, a spokesperson for APS, says this should have been a red flag.
"APS will never call a customer and demand payment over the phone," she says.
If a customer does receive a phone call from the company, it would probably refer them to visit the APS website or a payment office.
Milic says he knew something wasn't right when the scammers called back, asking for a second payment. After having already spent two hours dealing with the issue, Milic says he called APS, who confirmed his account was not past-due.
"You get so caught up in fixing things that you don't take a moment to step back," Milic says.
Shaver says customers who are suspicious about a phone call should hang up and call the APS customer help line, 602-371-7171. If the phone call is a legitimate one, the company will be able to confirm that fact.
Unfortunately, this type of scam is neither new, nor limited to business customers in Phoenix.
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"We've seen several of these scams over the last few years," Shaver says.
Helen Yung of Sweet Republic says both of her ice cream shops have been targets at least once, though they did not pay. Hana Japanese Eatery has also received similar phone calls several times over a number of years.
Shaver says APS is working with local authorities to stop these types of scams, and if you do receive a suspicious or fake call you should report the incident to your local law enforcement agency.