INDIANAPOLIS — A caller posed as an employee at an Indiana utility company, using some pretty convincing tactics that almost made one local man hand over his money.
Thankfully, he didn't.
But now, that man is sharing his story as a warning for others.
"They knew all the right stuff to say," Paul William Barrett Sr. said.
Barrett received a call from what showed up on his caller ID as, "AES Indiana" who said he was behind on his electric bill.
"Then he says there's nothing wrong, except because of our transition, your payments may not have been processed," Barrett recalled.
The caller mentioned the transition from IPL to AES might have caused the problem, and that Barrett needed to pay immediately in order for services to not be cut off.
"I said, 'Well, that doesn't make sense because I was just online looking at my account,'" Barrett explained. "He said, 'Well sir, there's just a delay.'"
Barrett kept inquiring, eventually asking to speak to a supervisor.
"And he said, 'I'll get your supervisor.' He said, 'OK, just hold on for a minute,'" Barrett said. "And then 30 seconds later, they hung up the phone."
Barrett immediately called the number back, and it was the utility company's actual number — another terrifying tactic, only to find out from the actual company that it was all a scam.
"It's sad because people are living in a time where they may be just coming out of the pandemic. They may be behind on bills and somebody is taking advantage of them in an attempt to profit off of what's been going on," Barrett said.
“Don’t believe what is on your caller ID,” Tim Maniscalo, President of the Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana said. “You can get an app now that will actually disguise the caller ID so you can make that caller ID look like whatever you want. It could be a government agency. In this case, it is the utility company’s number.”
Although it may have said AES on the caller ID, Maniscalo said Barrett was certainly not speaking with the utility company.
“Now that IPL has been purchased by AES, it’s not surprising that they’re trying to do this because once again it sounds kind of believable,” Maniscalo said. “They can craft a story that makes it sound, boy yeah, OK. There has been a change of ownership here maybe something is going on. So, this is a typical sort of tactic and they look for these types of opportunities.”
“It’s just heartbreaking that people would take advantage of people who may be vulnerable and there’s no way to recoup and recover those funds. It’s just heartbreaking,” Barrett said.
If someone calls you out of the blue and says you’re behind on your bill, the BBB warns to not give them any money right away. They recommend calling the actual company’s customer service line directly to confirm the story. Don’t be swayed by threats. A company would give you ample opportunities to pay your bill.
They also want you to report if something like this happens to you on the BBB’s scam tracker online. There, you can also view scams going on right now in your area. It’s also a way to warn others about scams happening near them.