Yet another local business owner has been duped out of money through an ongoing scam. But this time there’s a bit of a twist that is still under investigation.
Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn reported this week that on Nov. 18 an unknown person called a Village of Oak Creek business claiming it was behind on its bill and the power was scheduled to be shut off. The owner dismissed the call as a scam and did nothing. Three days later a man came into the business wearing a shirt and hat displaying “APS” lettering and stated he was there to shut off power. The owner requested information to prevent this from happening and the man/suspect provided a contact phone number before leaving.
The owner called the provided number and was directed to buy MoneyGrams at a local pharmacy to cover the $1,200 bill. The owner went to the pharmacy while remaining on the phone with the scammer who directed her through the process of paying the “bill.” The payment was made at a kiosk via a MoneyGram money transfer.
A short time later, the owner realized she had been scammed and attempted to stop the payment. However, it was too late as the money had been withdrawn and could not be recovered.
“This is a pretty bold move showing up in person,” D’Evelyn said on Tuesday, Nov. 29. “Because they are so brazen, we’re concerned it may happen again.”
However, D’Evelyn updated the information the following day because it looks as though this may be a case of an unfortunate coincidence.
In a YCSO press release, it stated, “During a follow-up with representatives from APS, the Sheriff’s Office learned there was an official APS employee in the area of the victim’s business for legitimate business purposes. It appears the APS employee may have had an interaction with victim in this case and that victim responded by calling a phone number saved from a Nov. 18 scam call. The victim’s call to that number on Nov. 21 led to a money transfer supposedly to satisfy a past due APS bill.
“Deputies are working with APS security officials to determine what, if anything, was discussed between the APS employee and the victim. APS officials also intend to verify if the victim’s business was the subject of the APS employee’s field visit.”
The YCSO deputy contacted APS corporate security to advise it of the incident. Similar situations involving suspects presenting themselves as APS employees have occurred around the state over the past few years. The scam phone number is fairly consistent in recent reports — 866-438-XXXX.
“If you have contact with a suspicious person representing themselves as an APS employee, please call your local law enforcement office immediately,” D’Evelyn said. “If they leave the premises, attempt to note a vehicle license plate.”
The APS website states, “APS representatives may not always wear uniforms with the APS logo. However, all permanent employees are required to carry identification. On occasion, the company uses contract workers who are required to carry a letter of introduction from APS. If a person is misrepresenting himself/herself as an APS employee, customers should immediately call 911.”
When contacted by the Sedona Red Rock News, APS spokesman Steve Gotfried said they saw an uptick in the number of phone scams just before Thanksgiving but that he had not heard about any in-person visits by the scammers.
To keep customers from becoming a victim of consumer scams, APS provides the following advice:
- APS never requires payment via a prepaid card.
- The only valid phone numbers to call the APS Customer Care Center are listed on customer bills and at aps.com.
- If there is ever a question about the validity of an email, website or person claiming to be an APS representative, call the APS Customer Care Center immediately at (602) 371-7171 to verify this information.
- Recognize the signs of a phishing email: Mismatched fonts, missing hyperlinks, improper grammar and misspellings.
- Never share credit card information with an unverified source. Customers who pay by credit card at aps.com will be directed to the KUBRA EZ-Pay website, which asks them to enter a “captcha” validation code. A captcha typically uses a set of letters and numbers that the user is required to manually retype and submit. Any other credit card payment site is fraudulent and should not be used.
After being contacted by the Sedona Red Rock News in October, APS issued a press release regarding the matter.
“APS issued a warning today about a new scam where criminals masquerading as APS employees are calling customers demanding immediate payment of their electric bill under the threat of having their power turned off,” the release states.
“Potential victims are instructed to purchase prepaid cards, in a specific amount, and then call a special number to make the payment. In some instances, the call back number goes to an automated phone system that acts and sounds like the actual APS Customer Care Center.”