Store Clerk Averts Apparent Scam

An alert supermarket employee is being credited with helping avert an apparent scam targeting a Colorado electric cooperative member.

An unusual scam attempt hits a Colorado co-op member, who was told to bring cash to a supermarket to pay her bill. (Photo By: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

An unusual scam attempt hits a Colorado co-op member, who was told to bring cash to a supermarket to pay her bill. (Photo By: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The woman received a call Aug. 22 from someone claiming to be with Durango-based La Plata Electric Association. She was told that from now on, LPEA would only accept cash for her payments, and to bring the current amount due to City Market, a local supermarket in Pagosa Springs, or her electricity would be cut off shortly.

When she came in with the cash, "The guy at the supermarket said, 'That's not right. We don't take their payments,' and advised her to go to the LPEA office," said Betsy Lovelace, the co-op's customer service supervisor.

In fact, LPEA does not have payment arrangements with any local merchants. And while it does have some members on cash-only arrangements, this member was not one.

The member followed the supermarket clerk's advice and went straight to an LPEA office, where she paid her balance due and told staffers what happened.

So what was the scammer's intention? That's a question that has the co-op folks puzzled. The member said she would contact local law enforcement.

While this was a new one for LPEA, unfortunately, scams are all-too-familiar.

"It used to be once a year and now it's gotten to be every couple of months," said Lovelace.

"Most times they want you to buy a Green Dot card, put money on that, and then call them back and give them the number. And then, boom, they've got your money."

Lovelace even called one of the 800 numbers a member had been given.

"It was so bizarre because it was La Plata Electric's recorded message" that played when the call was answered, she said. Scammers had apparently recorded it. Lovelace waited to speak to the "billing department" and then confronted the man who answered, before he hung up on her.

"I waited a few minutes, called back again, and the recorded message had changed from La Plata Electric to San Miguel Power," she said. "They're pretty crafty."


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