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Commercial accounts targeted by scam

Clay Electric is warning its commercial accounts and business owners to be aware of scams being attempted by persons who demand immediate payment of delinquent bills.

The most recent scam attempts occurred this week in Putnam and Lake counties.

“Someone called a grocery store owner and said their bill was past due and payment was needed immediately,” said Palatka District Member Relations Representative Derek Hembree. “In another incident, the owner of a Chinese restaurant was called and told that payment was required immediately or the power would be shut off.”

Fortunately, both scam attempts were foiled when the owners called Clay Electric’s Palatka District office and inquired about their bills.

Earlier this year, Clay Electric received reports that two commercial accounts it serves in Clay County were the target of attempted scams. The two businesses reported someone claiming to represent the co-op contacted them about making payment on an overdue bill. In one case, a payment for more than $2,000 was requested, and the caller wanted the money “wired.”

Clay Electric encourages the businesses it serves to be very suspicious of anyone who calls and claims he or she represents the co-op and wants to be paid for an overdue bill. The cooperative does not collect past due amounts in this manner.

“If the caller asks you to wire money or use a prepaid debit card, that’s a red flag,” said Bruce McHollan, director of Clay’s Information and Communication Technology Department. “If you have any doubt at all, hang up and call Clay Electric at 800-224-4917 and confirm if any payment is due. Clay Electric sends a reminder letter and makes an automated reminder call when bills are past due.

Members with residential accounts have also been subject to scam attempts during the past year that involved emails. Clay Electric does not send emails that threaten or require immediate action to provide personal information.

“We urge our members to ignore suspicious requests for personal information such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, user names and passwords, or Social Security numbers,” said Derick  Thomas, director of the co-op’s Member & Public Relations Department. “We ask our members to delete all suspicious emails that require immediate action to verify or provide personal information.”

“If a member has an overdue bill, he or she will likely receive a call from our automated phone messaging system as a reminder to call the cooperative to arrange payment. They’ll also receive a courtesy notice in the mail,” Thomas said. “Members should not share confidential personal information over the phone.”

The National Council on Aging offers several tips on its website to help older citizens avoid scams.