Phone scammers targeting small Fresno businesses

FRESNO, Calif.

In each of those cases, the scammers targeted small businesses.

The thieves tell the business owners that they have late power bills and if they don't pay within the next one to three hours, their power will be shut off. Police say one business paid $4,000 dollars in fear of having their power turned off.

Police say the victims were asked to send money by using a Green Dot MoneyPak card. They were asked to purchase the pre-paid card, and then call back to pay their bill. Fraud detectives say thieves are now using Green Dot MoneyPak cards as a popular tool to commit scams. It is becoming more popular than wire transfers.

Police say once the money is taken from the card, the money is lost. Banks are not likely to refund the money, even though it was taken by fraud.

Grill Masters BBQ restaurant owner Jesse Cortez said he was the target of one of the phone scams last month. The Clovis business owner says he received a phone call saying he needed to pay $2,500 dollars or his power would be shut off.

"My heart stopped," Cortez said. "They wanted the money right now, because they had guys in route to shut me off."

It took Cortez a second to realize the situation wasn't adding up.

"I was like you're crazy," he said. "There's no way I could owe $2,500 because PG&E automatically takes that money out. And I've never had a bill that high."

Sure enough, Cortez didn't pay and nothing happened to the power in his restaurant.

"He goes, I'll call you back,'" Cortez said. "He never called me back and that was the end of that conversation."

Cortez said he didn't report it to Police but instead called PG&E and had his suspicions confirmed.

PG & Spokesman Denny Boyles made the following statement

"The safety and security of our customer's private information is very important to us. Our customers should know we do not call and take payments over the phone at any time. If you are contacted anyone claiming to represent PG&E and you're unsure then up and call 1-800-743-5000 to securely speak to a PG&E representative."

Police say in the recent cases the scammers used phone numbers with the following area codes:
323 (Los Angeles)
801 (Utah)
619 (San Diego)

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