TACOMA, Wash. — Scammers targeted vulnerable Tacoma Utility customers Friday with a flood of calls that ended up conning at least a few out of hundreds of dollars.
The city is still trying to figure out just how many people got the fake calls but they heard from close to a hundred customers who said someone threatened to turn off their power.
Tacoma Public Utilities said the calls went out all over their service area and they probably seemed legitimate at first since the scammers spoofed their number.
“The caller I.D. would show the call is coming from Tacoma Power,” Customer Service Manager Steve Hatcher explained.
At least 75-100 people said the scammers called them.
“The scammer would say 'This is Tacoma Public Utilities you're behind on your utility bills we're out to send a crew to disconnect your services. However, if you pay 100, 200 whatever amount, we will stop the disconnection.'”
Customers were told to go to a local store and purchase a “Green Dot” card that they could use to send money.
“It's a card an individual can use to transfer money from one debit account to another debit account,” Hatcher said.
The cards are not traceable and once the money's gone, it's gone.
“Unfortunately, we are aware of two to three customers who did fall for the scam and, on average, between $200-300 paid by the customers,” he said.
Tacoma Public Utilities said scammers targeted seniors and business owners who have English as a second language.
The utility has a section on their website that helps people tell if someone is trying to scam them.