(Memphis) The Better Business Bureau and MLGW are warning people about a scam - someone is calling MLGW customers, saying their account is overdue and needs to be paid immediately using a prepaid cash card.
If the payment is not made, the callers say the utilities will be turned off.
One of the most famous names in Memphis barbeque came close to getting ripped off by the same crooks targeting you.
The BBB says John Vergos, owner of The Rendezvous, received one of the calls last week.
"The caller, who had a foreign accent, said he was from MLGW’s disconnect department and told Vergos that he had one hour to pay a $1062 past due bill, or they would disconnect power to the restaurant during business hours."
The traditions at Rendezvous are as old as the pit and walls surrounding it, so the crooks had to be mighty bold to try to pull one over on Vergos.
"They were very good, but they were very intimidating, they were very aggressive," Vergos said.
Vergos did not fall for it and told the BBB, “I sign all our checks, and I told them I knew our bills run much more than that. I also told them that I was sure we were current.”
Still, with multiple accounts for such a large business, Vergos said he thought for a moment, maybe they'd made a mistake.
“They were convincing enough that I thought maybe there was a remote possibility that we forgot to pay one," he said.
Vergos asked to speak to a supervisor and was given an 800 number to call.
Here's where it gets even more odd - the call was answered as MLGW and gave Vergos the option of talking to accounts receivable or the disconnect department.
"I said, 'Come down here and I'll pay you cash,' and I thought, well I want to see who this person is, but then he said, the only way is if you got to Walgreens or CVS and pay with some kind of Green Dot MoneyPak, and that's when I kind of realized it was a scam," said Vergos.
Vergos also said the person who answered the call sounded like the same man who called him.
He immediately contacted executives at MLGW, who in turn called the Better Business Bureau.
“These guys are very good,” Vergos said. “In my opinion they could scare many unsuspecting people, especially the elderly.”
The caller specifically asks for payment using a Green Dot MoneyPak cards which only requires someone to have the card code, not the card itself, to withdraw cash.
MLGW Director of Corporate Communications Gale Carson said, "We've been dealing with businesses getting scam calls for several months now."
MLGW even issued an alert, notifying both residential and business customers that crooks are calling and emailing in an attempt to steal money or phish for personal information.
They want to get the word out that MLGW will never call and threaten, or pressure customers to pay.
"We just don't call customers and tell them, 'You need to do this by X time or you will be disconnected."
As a long-time businessman, Vergos says if he could possibly fall for it, it could certainly happen to anyone else.
"I just thought this needs to go out to the public, and hope nobody gets taken."
MLGW is asking anyone who gets a call like this to contact local law enforcement and hand over the toll free number and any additional information.
Shelby County Sheriff's Office: 901−222−5600
For more information about the scam, go to bbb.org or look for them on Facebook (BBBMemphis) and Twitter (@BBBMidSouth).
The BBB and MLGW offer the following advice to avoid falling for one of these scams:
• Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.
• Remember that anyone who has the number on a prepaid Green Dot MoneyPak card has access to the funds on the card.
• Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who emails or calls you unsolicited.
• Never wire money or provide debit or credit card numbers or Green Dot MoneyPak information to someone you do not know.
• MLGW will never direct customers to make payments through a specific method. They may advise commercial and industrial customers of pending service disconnection via mail, automated phone calls, text alerts (if enrolled) and sometimes a courtesy call to the business.
• If your business has been targeted by this scam, share as many details as possible with MLGW, the BBB, and local law enforcement.