Police, utility urge caution after new reports of scam

Published 8:28 am Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Elizabethton Electric Department customers beware: police and utility officials say that telephone call you received1A-Meter-300x297 from the Electric Department might not be from the department at all.
The Elizabethton Police Department issued a warning Monday afternoon of a possible scam that has already affected some customers in the area.
According to the EPD, residents have reported being contacted by someone claiming to be a representative of the EED. The caller tells the customers that workers will be coming to replace the electric meter at the home, and the resident is required to provide payment at that time. The caller then tells the customer the EED will reimburse them at a later date.
Elizabethton Director of Utilities Johann Coetzee said that’s completely opposite from the way EED would handle those situations.
“This has nothing to do with the way we do business,” Coetzee said. “This is a standard scam that is going around the state.”
Coetzee said there were generally two variations of the scam. He said in most cases, customers are contacted by individuals claiming to be from the utility department.
“If they contact by phone, they change things so the call display shows they are calling from the Electric Department,” Coetzee said.
They will then tell the customers they are late in payments and will have their power turned off if they don’t make a payment, or will ask for a payment for a future service that has not yet been performed, like a meter replacement.
That’s a clear tipoff.
“We will never call a customer and tell them they are going to be cut off,” Coetzee said. “We have a procedure in place that we follow. That is nothing like how we work. Our employees will never take money out in the field for services that are being performed.”
Coetzee continued that when the EED replaces meters, it is done at no cost to the customer. He said meters are replaced when one is malfunctioning, or the meter is scheduled to be replaced under a meter replacement program.
Customer service supervisor Wes Pearson said the utility had received a few calls from customers. “We have had a few incidents where a customer has called and said they were targeted,” Pearson said. “It has not been widespread.”

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