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West side store manager warns of phone calls claiming to be IPL

Posted at 4:08 PM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-19 20:49:56-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A west side store manager has a warning out after nearly falling victim to a phone scam targeting Central Indiana businesses.

John Ward, a manager at Davis Jean and Fashion on West Washington Street, received a phone call with “IPL” on the caller ID, along with the utility’s real phone number.

“She said, 'Yes, this is IPL. We've not received payment. We're going to shut your power off by the end of the day if we do not receive payment,’" Ward said. “It sounded real.”

Ward became suspicious because he had received a similar phone call several months ago.

“I called IPL and they said we do not call customers to tell them we're going to shut their power off,” Ward said.

Ward didn’t fall for it, but others do — including homeowners and other businesses.

It’s called the utility impostor scam where the scammers spoof the real phone numbers of power companies like Duke Energy and Indianapolis Power and Light and demand payment or they’ll shut off your electricity.

Often times, they’ll ask you to pay using a pre-paid debit card, Bitcoin, or even wire money to them.

"It's just amazing what's happening these days,” Ward said. “There's all kinds of scams out there. You don't know what's real and what's not."

Call 6 Investigates is working for you to make sure you don’t get scammed.

IPL is working with authorities to stop these types of calls, and the utility has released the following information on this scam:

  • If IPL does call a customer, our representative will have specific and accurate information related to the customer's billing and account.
  • If IPL employees or contractors visit your home or business, they will carry an IPL identification badge.
  • IPL does not require or strongly recommend a specific payment method or type. We offer a variety of payment options so customers can select the one that best suits them.
  • Be on alert especially if someone demands payment by pre-paid debit (often referred to as "Greendot"), or Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency.
  • IPL also reminds customers not to provide personal information or comply with requests for payments unless they are confident with whom they are speaking to.
  • IPL also warns customers to be aware of their personal safety and only make payments in person at our Customer Service Center located at 2102 N. Illinois Street or at an authorized pay agent.

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Duke Energy also provided the following tips to avoid being scammed:

  • If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card, this is a red flag. Prepaid debit cards are like cash and the transactions cannot be reversed.
  • If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call us at the number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real Duke Energy representative.

Ward says everyone should be careful about giving out personal information over the phone.

“Just take precautions and just be careful," said Ward.

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IMPD is seeing an increase in complaints about the utility imposter scam.

“We have seen a spike in calls about a particular scam where individuals are posing as someone from IPL,” IMPD spokesperson Michael Hewitt said. “The scammers are ratcheting up their pressure and making threats to shut off power to the businesses if they do not comply.”

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