CPS Energy: Scam artists also target local businesses

Popular West Side eatery takes recent call demanding payment

CPS Energy reports since last December, 238 complaints have come in about scam artists pretending to work for the utility, demanding payment.

Spokesman John Moreno said not only are residential customers being targeted, but also local businesses.

Alex Lim, the general manager of Golden Star Cafe, said they took a call recently from someone with a foreign accent, trying to collect or else their power would be cut off.

Lim said when the man was told they wanted to check with CPS Energy first, he quickly hung up.

"So we stopped right there," Lim said.

CPS Energy has warned its customers before about scam artists, urging them to immediately call customer service or security, and notify local law enforcement.

Moreno said, "CPS Energy will not call to attempt to collect any funds from a customer, nor will we show up at their door."

He also said CPS Energy does not threaten to cut off electrical service  if the payment is not made over the phone.

He said even if the customer is past due, they only get an automated phone message about making payment arrangements.

Lim said his restaurant's bill is current. He also said other local Chinese restaurants are getting similar calls.

He said one owner even lost $1,000 because by the time he tried to stop payment, it had already gone through.

"They want them to take the money out to some kind of telephone transaction. I don't know how they do it," Lim said.

Lim said he believes the scam artists are targeting businesses that might have a language barrier.

Moreno said it's quite possible, since scammers count on intimidation and fear to convince customers to forfeit payments that are not legitimate.  

"Sometimes they will misinterpret what that caller is saying and the caller may threaten them in such a way where they feel the payment has to be made," Moreno said.

Lim said he recommends against giving out any information, but try to get their name and number.

"Ask more questions than they're asking you," Lim said.

However, Moreno said the cases are tough to prosecute, especially if the scam artists are based overseas.

"A lot of times, they call from a number that's untraceable," he said. "There's really no way for a customer or police to know who actually generated that phone call."

For a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.

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