TALLMADGE — Not only are Tallmadge Police warning about a utility scam which is once again powering its way across the area, but the wife of one of its own officers was targeted.
The wife of Tallmadge Police Officer Dave Quillen received a telephone call on her cell phone a few days after Christmas — the person was looking for her husband.
"They claimed to be from Ohio Edison," Quillen said. "They claimed I was behind nearly $600 on my bill and that if she didn’t make a payment over the phone, they’d immediately shut off my electricity and enter me to collections."
Quillen credited his wife for being "pretty sharp" as he recounted the conversation.
"I overheard part of the conversation," he added. "She knew to ask what address the bill was for and when it didn’t match up, she quickly ended the conversation."
His wife called First Energy and verified that the call was, indeed, a scam and that their bill was up to date.
"Here’s the thing — the number they called from appeared to be an actual Ohio Edison phone number," Quillen said. "We know it’s actually pretty easy to spoof a number — so don’t take a known number calling you for information as truth."
The officer is also warning people to not give out personal information over the phone.
"If you aren’t sure if the caller is legitimate, ask for a number to call them back," he said. "Get online and verify the customer support number on the actual website for the company calling you, and if you’re still not sure, call the company to verify."
According to Quillen, the scammers are sharp and know how to manipulate people into giving information to them.
"Once you give them information or credit card numbers, gift card numbers, etc, it is nearly impossible to get that money and information back," he said. "Be vigilant and protect yourselves."
Chris Eck is a spokesperson with First Energy.
"First of all we will notify you several times via the mail or your preferred contact method and we will have contacted the person several times before anyone comes to shut your power off," Eck said. "So that you will know ahead of time that your bill is in areas."
If the call is in fact from First Energy, operators will give customers more than one way to pay, Ack added.
Sometimes scammers will not give options and will order potential victims to pay in gift cards purchased from local stores.
"That’s usually a giveaway that it's a scam," Eck said.
Another giveaway is if a person asks for the details of the bill, including account number. Eck said Ohio Edison employees will have that information and not need to ask for it.
"Also if the call comes in [to a potential victim] on a number that has not been registered with Ohio Edison it is a good indication it is a scam," Eck said. "Generally if it sounds unbelievable, it is."
For additional information on scams vist First Energy at goo.gl/TWDLhb.