‘Pay up or power off’ scam didn’t fool this East TN business owner


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The coronavirus has created anxiety for lots of people and scammers are taking advantage of it.

The latest ploy is posing as representatives from utility companies to dupe people out of their cash by convincing them their utilities will be shut off if they don’t pay. But here’s the truth of it: Utility companies don’t make threatening calls.

One local business owner shared how she got a call from her utility company – or so it appeared.

Cathey Love has operated a mobile pet grooming business for 19 years. As a responsible business person, she pays her bills on time. But when she received a call last week, believing it was her utility company, it frightened her.

“My phone rings and it shows up as KUB. Well, I have a rental house. I just recently changed it back into my name and have new renters in there,” Cathey Love said.

“Claire” is the name of the person claiming she was from KUB, the Knoxville Utilities Board.

“So it says, KUB, I answer it and they say ‘we are going to turn your power off in two or three hours because you haven’t paid this 300 dollar deposit,'” Love said. “I said, ‘I didn’t need to pay a deposit because I’ve been with KUB so long.’ ‘Well, we’re showing it’s not been paid.’ It was that bit of panic, my phone showing KUB.”

Panicked or not, Love asked some questions about the supposedly late deposit. She was told the bill came up with the name of her business on it – which she thought was way off.

“I would not have put my rental house name in my business name,” she said. “It would have been in my personal name. So that was the first big red flag.”

Love said “Claire” gave her a callback number in case they were disconnected. We dialed that number. It was no longer in service.

“I’m wondering if they use a number like this for one day or two days? So, if something like this happens, we can’t track them down the next day,” Love said.

KUB spokesperson Harley Bryant said Cathey Love did the right thing by asking questions first before sending money.

“We do not call customers and say, ‘pay this bill,'” Bryant said. “We don’t send text messages saying we’re going to cut your power off if you don’t get it taken care of ASAP. Our notification is going to be on your bill itself. Or if we are going to turn your power off, there will be a door notice on your account.”

Cathey Love’s quick thinking enabled her not to lose a cent. She wants others to be aware of these scams

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