Telephone scam threatens AELP customers

AELP's circular drive leads to a payment window. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

AELP’s circular drive leads to a payment window. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

Another telephone scam hit the capital city Wednesday — this one threatening to turn off electricity unless the customer paid up immediately.

According to Juneau police and Alaska Electric Light and Power, a number of local businesses and residential customers received calls from a man claiming to be a representative of the power company.

Spokeswoman Debbie Driscoll said AELP received well over 20 calls from customers who were told their power would be turned off because their account was past due. Then he gave them a toll-free call-back number for payment.

He was saying that his name was James Pearce and that he was demanding payment, otherwise power would be cut off in 45 minutes. He was telling customers to go to Walmart or Fred Meyer and buy a Green Dot card – I believe a prepaid credit card,” she said.

Driscoll said the scam is similar to several in Juneau over the last few months. The last one targeted downtown businesses, another hit AELP customers with Spanish-sounding last names.

“Obviously, we would never make those type of calls. Customers would get notified in writing and a friendly phone call if they were behind. And those calls come after not having paid in 60 days,” she said. “The other thing is we don’t take prepaid cards, we take cash, check or money order in the office.”

Lt. David Campbell said the Juneau Police Department also got numerous phone calls about Wednesday’s scam. He said citizens should always be suspicious of such calls and never provide personal identification or account numbers to callers.

Campbell said telephone fraud can be a lucrative business.

“You’re talking about very little effort on the scammers’ part,” he said, “and all they have to do is be successful on a very, very small percentage of the time in order to make it profitable for them.”

The FBI offers more information on common fraud schemes.

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