Charlotte Center City Partners, Duke Energy warn after ‘pushy’ scammer wanted $1,400 or electricity would be cut off

Someone pretending to be Duke Energy called Charlotte Center City Partners
Center City Partners came very close to getting scammed.
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 5:14 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s no secret that scammers are out to get you.

They text. They email. They call.

Usually, it’s pretty easy to spot an odd email address or a phony number.

But scammers are getting so sophisticated, they’re seeming more real than they are fake.

Moira Quinn, from Charlotte Center City Partners, can attest to it.

“I’m not that easily intimidated,” Quinn said. “You got to work to intimidate me, you’ve got to work really hard. And he was working hard, but you got to work harder than he did to intimidate me, but somebody might fall for it. Somebody might wire him $1,400. I wasn’t going to do it but somebody might.”

Center City Partners came very close to getting scammed.

Someone pretending to be Duke Energy called Moira Quinn.

They knew she was the person to handle utilities for them.

On Your Side Tonight’s Alex Giles talked with Quinn about what happened.

Moira Quinn: “He was very pushy, which was the first thing. He told me that he had sent us multiple letters and that they needed to replace a smart meter for our suite at Charlotte Center City Partners. And that if we didn’t wire him money in some way, didn’t get him $1,400, there was some change involved, that he was going to cut off the electricity to our suite within 30 minutes.”

“So, everybody was going to lose everything they were working on if we didn’t immediately log off, and I didn’t send that money right away. And that I need to just do that right away. He was very pushy about it.” Alex Giles: As you’re hearing this for the first time, what’s going through your head? Moira Quinn: “Well, so the first thing I thought about was, ‘Oh, my gosh, they sent us letters, what is that all about? And then my brain began to sort of kick in once I got past the, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to run around, tell everybody to log off, I’m going to have to tell everybody to save their stuff.”

“My better self began to kick in and I realized, no, this has to be a scam because, No. 1, that’s not how Duke Energy does business.”

“They don’t just call you up with a pushy job with a pushy engineer who claims to be down in my basement who claims he’s going to cut off the electricity in 30 minutes. That’s not how they do business. The other thing that I knew was that our suite did not have a smart meter.”

“We don’t have an individual meter to our suite. So, I asked him about it. I knew we have an office across the street in another building that does have a smart meter, that does have an individually metered suite.”

“So I said, are you sure that it isn’t this other office building? He said, ‘Nope,’ so I’m checking my paperwork, it is 200, South Tryon, not 201. So, I kind of gave him the opportunity to be right. But he continued to be wrong, that it was not the same building. And so I hung up.”

Alex Giles: Does it worry you that this could happen to somebody, some other business owner out there?

Moira Quinn: “It really worries me that this might happen to somebody else. If you’re the person who has that responsibility, you have that immediate gut clench, ‘Oh no, I’m shutting down my business.’ It’s hard because it’s emotionally there. What they’re trying to do is push you into making an emotional decision, and that’s what that guy was trying to do with me.”

Wednesday was Utility Scam Awareness Day.

It’s a testament to situations like this.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, utilities, like Duke Energy, say they’ve seen even more reports of scammers contacting customers and threatening to cut off their service if they don’t pay them.

Just like Moira’s case, they’ve become savvy and sophisticated, so it’s easy to get tricked.

But Bill Norton, from Duke Energy, says there are some things to look out for.

Bill Norton: “What we heard there from Moira is one of the trends we’re seeing - more business scams because more potentially lucrative, you know, you might scam an individual out of $100, $200. They were trying to get $1,400 out of Center City Partners. We had one business, a bar, that got scammed out of $19,000 this year. So, the stakes are high.”

Alex Giles: What’s your biggest advice to people? What do they need to look out for?

Bill Norton: “The single biggest thing I could tell customers is to end the call, you do that, you’ve ended the scam.”

“If you get a call that says you got 30 minutes, or your power’s going to get cut off, Duke Energy doesn’t operate that way.”

“You got an hour, or you’re going to lose your heat, Piedmont Natural Gas just doesn’t operate that way. That’s not how we do business. We’re always going to give you multiple ways to pay and a long time to do it. I mean, if you’re behind on your bills, we’re going to give you 18 months up to 18 months to pay it back.”

“It’s never going to be 30 minutes. If you get that call. If you feel that anger, that tension, hang up, look on your bill for the number there. Do not call back the number on the caller ID, look on your bill or look on our website or look on our app. call us and you’ll find out.”

Alex Giles: Nobody ever has to worry about an immediate threat from Duke Energy for a super tight window of time in which they have to pay a bill or else nothing like that ever will happen. Right?

Bill Norton: “It’s never going to be instant. If the person on the other line is trying to tell you exactly how you have to pay, whether it’s a wire transfer a prepaid card, the Zell app on your phone, that’s one of the trends we’re seeing more and more often.”

“If they’re dictating to you how you have to pay, that’s a huge red flag. We’re going to work with you know, if you want to do a wire transfer, you can if you want to pay in person, you can. If you want to pay by credit card, you can, but it’s going to be your option. We’re never going to dictate to you how it has to happen.”

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