DUNCAN, Okla._The City of Duncan has another scam on their hands, but this time, criminals are using the city's name to trick business owners out of their money.
Several local businesses in town have received phone calls from representatives claiming to be with Duncan Power saying they have a delinquent account, and the electricity will be cut off if they don't pay up. But, the truth is, none of those accounts are actually past due and the people on the phone aren't from the City of Duncan.
Judy Morris manages the El Palacio restaurant on the south side of town. She says she received a phone call about her late account, but that's not all. The man made sure to call at 11:00 a.m., just in time for the restaurant's rush hour, hoping they'd have no choice but to pay up before the lights went out.
"That's our busiest hours, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. If he was to turn it off, we'd be in big trouble," said Morris.
Judy Morris' instincts were quick to take over Monday morning when she received a phone call saying El Palacio was on the brink of shutdown unless they paid nearly $1,400 and they had all the right info to back it up.
"I kept him on the telephone, and asked him to give me the account number that the past due bill was on. He gave me that account number and I thought "ok, but this is strange," recalled Morris.
The caller asked Morris to send cash at a nearby payment center. Morris promptly contacted Duncan Power to confirm the late fees, but they told her there were none to be found. When confronted, the man on the phone hung up and never called back.
"And then I was getting to feel a little comfortable that it was not real," said Morris.
It sounds like your typical scam, but as a business, El Palacio is not your typical victim. And neither is Duncan Power, who's been caught in the middle of it all. They say in their tenure, they've never had anyone contact their customers posing as city employees. Police said Morris did the right thing by going straight to the source.
"I give a lot of credit to the people of El Palacio for contacting the city electric department and making sure they were current before sending any money.
Anytime they're not sure of who they're dealing with or why they're dealing with it to check it out," said Duncan police officer, Lt. Joe Shoemake.
It's a lesson Morris now knows firsthand.
"After that, did I feel comfortable? Yes. Am I still nervous? Yes," said Morris.
Police aren't sure how criminals got a hold of these account numbers but they said it's likely they might've retrieved them from the trash. Duncan Power also says they never give account numbers out. Both departments recommend shredding any unwanted documents before throwing them away.
The City of Altus says the scam is also making its way through their city. Altus police are notifying citizens of a caller telling residents their power bill is late. The city's utilities manager says their procedure with delinquent accounts is to notify the customer in writing that the power could be cut off, not on the phone.
The Altus Police Chief encourages people to call their department if they believe they've been targeted by this scam.