A man claiming to be a worker for power company AEP used the personal information of a Corpus Christi woman to scam her daughter out of hundreds of dollars.
“How did he have her account number?” scam victim Joanne Baker asked. “He had all of that information written down.”
The scammer convinced Baker that the power to the bar her mother owns would be shut off yesterday if she didn’t put more than $300 on a prepaid debit card, and give the money to him within 30 minutes of his call. His knowledge of the bar’s address, phone number, and account number with AEP factored into the ruse.
“If I don’t get the money within 30 minutes, I’m going to have [the power] shut off,” Baker said. “So, of course I panicked.”
That tight deadline and the fact that the scammer wanted the money on a prepaid debit card are two red flags that it’s a scam.
“When someone calls over the phone and asks you for money from AEP Texas, it’s not us,” Omar Lopez with the company’s corporate communication division said. “We will never call you and ask you for money.”
How the scammer got Baker’s mother’s personal information is still a mystery. The Better Business Bureau of Corpus Christi suspects ‘dumpster diving’ – the scammer digging through the garbage for an old electric bill.
“One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is get a shredder,” the BBB’s executive director for the Corpus Christi region Kelly Trevino said. “They’re around $25. Get a shredder and shred every bill that comes in.”
Baker says her mother basically does that, and she suspects that someone who works at the bar may have passed the information along to the scammer.
“She gets all her bills at the house, and when she’s done with them she rips them up into tiny pieces, and she puts them in the recycling bin,” Baker said. “So, I don’t think they could have gotten the bill from there.