Woman warning others not to fall for utility bill scam

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OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. — A North Mississippi woman says she was targeted by crooks telling her she was hundreds of dollars behind on her water bill.

Now she’s sounding the alarm and letting others know.

“In these times I know $425 may not be a lot of money for some people, but to a lot of them it is, with them not having their jobs,” Marjorie Bell said.

Bell said she got a call this week from a number with a 901 area code. A woman was on the other end. 

“I knew that something was going on,” Bell said.

The woman told Bell she needed to call a 1-800 number because her water bill was past due. Bell had just paid her bill but still called the number. This time a man answered. 

“He said your account is past due, we have given you notices, you ignored them and we gonna give you a way to clear this up,” she said.

He asked for $425, saying she had 45 minutes before services were disconnected. 

Bell did the right thing. She hung up and called her Olive Branch, Mississippi utility number directly, where she was then told nothing was wrong with the account.

But Bell is far from alone in this scam.  Late last week, MLGW asked customers to be aware of criminals posing as MLGW operators, demanding money, threatening disconnection. The scammers even told some customers to go buy Visa gift cards in order to pay their bills.  

Nancy Crawford with the Better Business Bureau says scams similar to this one are on the rise, capitalizing on people’s fear during a time when many are without jobs or  are receiving less income. 

“Even people who don’t live in the Light, Gas & Water service area might get calls, because they’re just hoping to get that, ‘Oh my gosh’ reaction,” she said. “‘Here let me pay you right now so you don’t cut off my utilities while my children are at home with me.’”

The mayor of Olive Branch said he hasn’t heard anything about specific scams regarding his utility department so it’s likely the scammers in this case were making blanket calls. 

MLGW says they are not charging late fees or disconnecting services because of COVID-19. They also say they will never ask you to call a separate 1-800 number or ask you to purchases a prepaid gift card.

If customers are unsure of their balance they can check online or contact a MLGW customer care agent at 544-6549.

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