FirstEnergy is warning residents about a recurring scam in which con artists posing as Ohio Edison employees threaten to turn off people's power unless they pay an alleged debt immediately.
The scam cost a Kent woman nearly $600 and her wedding ring. The Caller ID on her phone showed the caller was from Ohio Edison, and the woman was desperate to keep her air conditioning on.
Here's a summary provided by FirstEnergy of the scam that targeted Gretchen Brown of Kent:
On June 18, Brown was called by what she thought was Ohio Edison, informing her that she had to pay $600 in 40 minutes, or a technician would come out and turn off her electricity.
“This was a Friday, we couldn’t have been without electricity for two days in the 90-degree heat, so I fell for it,” said Gretchen.
With no extra cash on hand to pay the bill, she did something few could ever imagine.
“The only thing we could do is we gathered up our wedding rings, I had a gold necklace and some other pieces of not expensive jewelry and we went to a pawn shop,” she said.
She spread the money out between two Money Pak cards as instructed, and called the so-called technicians to read them the card numbers.
If only that’s where the story ended. The technicians soon called her back informing her that she made the wrong payment amount, and she’d need to make yet another payment of six hundred dollars. That’s when Gretchen says she’d had enough.
She made a call to Ohio Edison in an attempt to get an extension on paying the bill, for the second time. That’s when she found out she had been scammed.
The real Ohio Edison had informed her that not only was her electric not in danger of being turned off, but that her bill wasn’t even due for a couple more weeks.
"When I found out it was a scam, like I said, I just sat right down and bawled my eyes out because it was like oh my god," she said.
After realizing she was the latest victim of a ruthless scam, Gretchen informed the police, the Ohio Attorney General, and MoneyPak.
With no hope of getting her money back, and now having to pay two months to Ohio Edison because of an extension was given to her, Gretchen has learned an expensive lesson.
The scammers convinced her that they were calling from Ohio Edison from a software called I.D. Spoofing Software. It allows scammers to manipulate the phone numbers they’re calling from, and even access automated messages of reputable companies.
Lauren Siburkis, a spokesperson for FirstEnergy said, “the number of reported scams have more than doubled in the past year for first energy customers.”
FirstEnergy wants to make it clear to customers that they would never ask for customers to pay over pre-paid cards, and all shut-off notices will be sent via mail.
The company has an entire website dedicated to utility scams, and they encourage customers to call and verify all technicians and phone calls before you pay your bill.
Get more information about utility scams here. (https://www.firstenergycorp.com/content/customer/help/safety/scam-info/known-scams.html