TAMPA, (WFLA) – It’s a twist on an old scheme: crooks are pretending to be with your electric company and threatening to turn off your electricity if you don’t pay immediately.
The new part: some are now texting victims a bar code and telling them to use it at the nearest Walmart to pay them quickly. Victims say once the money is gone, it’s gone.
Robyn Segal, of Tampa, called Better Call Behnken to warn others after she fell for the scheme. She says the call came in at the end of the business day last week and caller ID showed the caller as “Tampa Electric.”
She was told she missed an electric payment two months ago and needed settle up now or her electricity would be shut off. She was suspicious but says she fell for it because she had a problem paying her bill online a couple of months and questioned whether the payment had not gone through.
“I was thinking, ‘this is ridiculous, but it’s 95 degrees out,’ and I didn’t want my electric turned off,” Segal said.
Since it was after-hours, she was told she could pay her $287.16 at Walmart.
“He said you just go down there and we’ll send you a scan bar code and they’ll scan it down there and you just deposit it into Tampa Electric and it’s that easy,” Segal said.
She says she feels silly now – but she’s not alone, according to Cherie Jacobs of TECO. She says there has been a significant uptick in the crime in the past 10 days.
Jacobs says the crooks typically demand payment through Zelle or Venmo, but they’re getting craftier.
“We have only seen a few instances of this barcode scam,” Jacobs said. “Now it’s rare but we have seen it happen a few times. It’s relatively new. It’s all surfaced in the last month or so.”
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