'Utility Scam' just the latest scheme to get your money

'Utility Scam' just the latest scheme to get your money
Capt. Craig Dodd (Source: WALB)
Capt. Craig Dodd (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - An East Albany business owner warns others that scam callers appear to be targeting small businesses.

Dougherty County Sheriff's Office Investigators say scammers are busy. Usually phone scammers target the elderly or very young adults, but now small business owners seem to be under attack.

Dr. Fred Freeland of Albany Pet Partners says he got a scam call Friday, from someone claiming to be from his utility company, saying they were about to pull the plug.

"There is a man on the phone says they are going to cut our utilities off in 45 minutes to an hour.  I said "What?!"

Dr. Freeland left surgery on Friday to answer a phone call threatening to shut off his power because the bill had not been paid.  "He repeated that. Said we're going to cut your utilities off in 45 minutes to an hour, but since you are a hospital we're giving you this advance warning."

Freeland knew the bill had been paid. He knew something was wrong when the caller, named Bobby Johnson, named several wrong utilities.

No doubt it was a scam?  "No doubt in my mind. Because they didn't know exactly what they were addressing," said Captain Craig Dodd Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators say this utility scam is an old one, but they have not seen it in a while. It purposely targets  busy small businesses. Dodd said "If you've got like a manager or assistant manager that doesn't know what's going on, and doesn't want the business to be shut down, they may have access to that information."

The caller told Dr. Freeland they were going to have to escalate his call when he resisted, but then hung up.  He wants to warn other small business owners.

"It's easy to fall prey to someone who puts those kind of time limits on you.  When you know you can't afford to lose power," Freeland said.

Dodd said these type scams could be coming from very scary locations. "Well there is no way to know specifically, but a lot of it is still coming out of the prison systems, with telephones that are smuggled in."

Dr. Freeland says he thinks the scammers might have called on Friday to put even more pressure on the businesses.

Dodd said utility companies give several notices before they cut your service. So if you get a call like this, just hang up, and call your utility back using the number in your phone book.

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