Scammers target local businesses
The Aiken Department of Public Safety is investigating multiple cases of fraud in which several businesses were targeted by someone claiming to be an employee of SCE&G.
The incidents were reported on Friday at four Aiken restaurants, according to reports.
A restaurant on York Street reported that someone called and said they were late on paying their electric bill with SCE&G, and that the business needed to send a “large sum of money” to an address on Richland Avenue.
The business owner told the caller they had paid the bill the week before and called SCE&G to confirm, the report stated.
The owner of a business of Pine Log Road reported getting a similar call the same day, police said. The caller, again claiming to be with SCE&G, told her the restaurant’s power will be disconnected because she didn’t pay her electric bill.
The caller also told her to go to a gas station or a Walgreen’s, purchase a Green Dot money card and place about $990 into an account, according to the report.
While officers were investigating a similar call at a restaurant on Richland Avenue, they were called to a restaurant in The Alley, where someone claiming to be with SCE&G called and told them to fill out a cashier’s check to pay for their overdue electric bill, the report stated.
Each business owner recognized it was a scam and called SCE&G to confirm.
Since then, no other reports have been filed by any businesses, according to Lt. Jake Mahoney, a spokesman for Aiken Public Safety. Additionally, no arrests have been made.
Such scams are going on nationwide, including South Carolina, according to Molly Morris, general manager of customer service for SCE&G.
In most cases, the scammer tells the customer they are late on their utility bill and that their service will be cut off if they don’t pay immediately, Morris said. The scammer then instructs the customer to purchase a prepaid debit card and to call back with the numbers on the card.
Scammers often target small businesses, such as restaurants that can’t afford to close, so they feel a sense of urgency, Morris said.
“SCE&G does not ask customers to purchase payment cards from local convenience or drug stores for bill payment purposes,” Morris said. “Bill payments are accepted at SCE&G business offices, by mail, authorized payment agencies, online or through SCE&G’s phone payment provider.”
The company has been trying go get the word out to warn residents and business owners.
If you have doubt about the legitimacy of a caller, or believe you have been a victim of this scam, call SCE&G’s customer service department at 1-800-251-7234.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.