CLEARWATER BEACH, FLA.- — A Clearwater Beach business owner said she almost became the victim of a scam.
Samantha Krupski owns Samgelo's Pizza on Clearwater Beach.
She said she received a call from someone claiming to be from Duke Energy. The caller demanded a utility payment.
"One of our employees, she answered the phone and handed it over because she wasn't really sure what to do with the call," said Krupski.
Krupski said the caller demanded payment of more than $800 or her electricity would be disconnected.
"I was kind of panicked for a moment, absolutely," said Krupski.
In 2020, more than 4,500 of Duke Energy Florida’s 1.8 million customers reported scam attempts. Of these customers, approximately 180 paid scammers at least $95,000.
Krupski said the scammers also sent her a text message. The message said, "Please get in contact with our disconnection department regarding the service disconnection that we have today for non-payment."
A Duke Energy spokesperson encourages customers who suspect a scam to hang up and call their utility company immediately at the phone number listed on their bill or website, followed by a call to the police and report the incident to BBB Scam Tracker at https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker to help warn others.
A spokesperson for Duke Energy said do not pay over the phone if immediate payment is demanded to avoid disconnection. Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification from utilities – never a single notification an hour before disconnection.
Krupski said she called Duke Energy after she received that suspicious phone call.
"When I hung up the phone, I matched the numbers from Duke Energy from the number that had called and realized it didn't match so I called Duke Energy and straightened it out with them," said Krupski.
Duke Energy said since the pandemic started, scammers have increased calls, texts, emails, and in-person tactics and are contacting utility customers asking for immediate payment to avoid service disconnection.
"I'm not surprised under the circumstances. For us, it was chaotic like that day. I can see how somebody would believe that they were about to get their power shut off."