Steve Segner said that instead of keeping quiet, he feels it’s his obligation to help get the word out regarding a scam that’s hit Arizona.
Segner, the president of the Sedona Lodging Council and owner of El Portal Sedona Hotel, and others fell victim to an elaborate phone scam in which he lost nearly $3,000 this past week.
He received a call on Saturday, Oct. 22, around 9:30 a.m. from someone stating that they were from APS and that the power to El Portal would be turned off in 45 minutes due to nonpayment.
He went online and his bank account showed he had paid his September bill in the amount of $1,927. The power bill is deducted each month automatically from their checking account. To avoid the power being turned off, he was instructed to go to Fry’s grocery store and buy two cards valued at $500 apiece and to call a number when they got into the parking lot. He told the representative that the payment was already deducted but was told that more than likely it was credited to another account and that he could clear things up on Monday during normal business hours.
When he called back a short time later, he was told that he needed to send another payment because the last wire of $1,998 did not go through.
Segner said each time he called the toll-free number he was given, he got the APS phone tree, thus leading him to believe it was legitimate.
“I kept thinking that it sounded legit but my antennas were up the whole time,” he said. “They [scammers] were very, very good. In fact by the last phone call I knew something wasn’t right. I snickered and said, ‘You’re very good’ and I hung up. Shame on me. A lot of people would be embarrassed by this and wouldn’t want to talk about it. But I want to let others know so that they don’t get scammed like I did.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Sedona Police Department issued a scam warning via social media. In it in states, “Arizona Public Service reports they would notify customers if there was an issue by text message, letter, door hanger or an insert in your next bill.”
After being contacted by the Sedona Red Rock News, 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.”
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.
“While it is impossible to know how many customers have been targeted or have fallen for the scam, APS security has received reports of more than 90 incidents across the state in the past 10 days,” APS spokesman Steve Gotfried said.
APS encourages customers who have been targeted to report the incident to local law enforcement along with APS at (800) 240-2014.
Segner said that in the end, this has been an expensive learning process.
“I knew deep down that they were getting to me,” he said. “It’s like playing poker against someone who you know doesn’t have a better hand than you but they still beat you. They just played their cards better than me.”