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Scammers pose as power company to trick victims

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Posted at 8:13 PM, May 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-16 20:13:38-04

Con artists are taking on a new role: power company employees.

They're trying to steal money from unsuspecting business owners and Susan McGinnis spoke to one woman who was targeted.

On a busy Friday at "Washland Laundromat" in Plainfield New Jersey, owner Annabella Malicia got a call from her power company. At least, that's what she thought.

Malicia was told she had to pay thousands of dollars, or they'd shut off her power.

Turns out she was talking to a scam artist.

"We saw this hitting streets about a year and a half ago," says Michael Kelly.

Kelly says scammers who once targeted homeowners are now going after small businesses threatening to cut the power if they don't pay up.

Scam artists tell victims to buy a prepaid debit card at a convenience store or drug store and call them back with the information. The scammer then drains the funds from the card.

The con is being reported in states across the nation.

Utility companies are warning customers not to be fooled.

"We would never require a customer to go out and purchase this type of payment method. We would not require them to pay in order to avoid instant termination," says Kelly.

Kelly says if you get one of these calls, be sure they have specific information, including the account name, number and current balance.

Malicia didn't fall for the scam.

"I started thinking. Something's not right here," says Malicia.

She hung up before giving away any financial information and contacted her power company.

Utility companies say people who believe they've been targeted by these scam artists should also contact local law enforcement.