Northeast Times

Green Dot scam continues to be threat in NE Philly

Scams nev­er die. They just fade away for a while — but just a while.

Dur­ing the sum­mer, the North­east Times re­por­ted con artists were tar­get­ing PECO cus­tom­ers with Latino sur­names. In the past month and a half, 35 people have re­por­ted the scam to the util­ity, a spokes­man said.

The pa­per re­por­ted Span­ish-speak­ing callers told their in­ten­ded vic­tims that they have over­due ac­count bal­ances and that their power will be turned off if they don’t im­me­di­ately pay what’s owed. They’re in­struc­ted to buy pre­paid deb­it cards for the amounts due, call an­oth­er phone num­ber and re­cite the num­bers on the deb­it cards.

A few PECO cus­tom­ers in the North­east re­por­ted the scam to the util­ity, spokes­man Ben Arm­strong said in Au­gust. However, he said, the con seemed to be fo­cused in Chester County.

It’s back there, too, Arm­strong said Fri­day, but he knows of cus­tom­ers who re­cently have re­por­ted it in Bucks and Mont­gomery counties. 

Four­teen Phil­adelphi­ans, in­clud­ing six from the North­east, have called about it as well, he said.

Ten people have ac­tu­ally fallen for it and have lost from $100 to al­most $500, Arm­strong said.

Al­though Arm­strong has no in­form­a­tion that the con artist or con artists have been speak­ing Span­ish this time, Span­ish is what links the vic­tims.

“We be­lieve those who have been scammed are all of Latino des­cent,” he said.

In the sum­mer most of the bogus calls ori­gin­ated in the 718 area code, Arm­strong said. Cur­rently, they’re com­ing from many dif­fer­ent areas, al­though none ori­gin­ate in the 215 area code, he ad­ded.

There’s a good reas­on people shouldn’t be vic­tim­ized by this scam, Arm­strong said. 

“We are nev­er go­ing to tell cus­tom­ers to go to a drug store or a con­veni­ence store to get pre­paid deb­it cards to pay their bills,” he said in a phone in­ter­view. “There is no reas­on for us to tell them to do that.”

Any­one who does just isn’t on the up and up.

Arm­strong said he has no dir­ect know­ledge of how wide­spread the scam is but he has learned oth­er util­it­ies’ cus­tom­ers have been harder hit than PECO’s.

The util­ity does call cus­tom­ers when they have bal­ances due and does tell them if they are in danger of hav­ing their power turned off, Arm­strong said. They’ll be warned in let­ters, and they’ll get calls 72 hours and 24 hours be­fore shutoffs. 

Any­one who does call from PECO should know the ex­act name on an over­due ac­count, the ac­count ad­dress, the ac­count’s num­ber and ex­actly what the cur­rent bal­ance is, Arm­strong said.

If a caller doesn’t have this in­form­a­tion, he’s likely not call­ing from PECO. Any­one who gets a sus­pi­cious call like this shouldn’t fall for it and in­stead should re­port it to PECO at 1-800-494-4000 and re­port it to po­lice, he said. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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