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There is an aggressive telephone scam being attempted on businesses in Snohomish County.
In this scam, the caller purports to be from Snohomish PUD, or a nearby utility such as Seattle City Light or PSE. The caller tells the business that their account is “red flagged” or “behind” and that power will be shut off in a short time for non-payment. The caller says that shutoff can be avoided if business pays with a “Green Dot Money Pak” available from Fred Meyer and most convenience stores. The business is instructed to call an 800 or 888 number and then to read the Money Pak number to the person who answers. When a business follows these instructions, the money is transferred to the scammer in a way that is not traceable by law enforcement.
The caller may argue and threaten while demanding payment. They all try to develop a sense of urgency for the business to pay quickly. Callers will have a plausible answer to most questions. Callers may also give specific, accurate utility account information, such as the account number and last amount paid, in order to sound legitimate. Sometimes the caller has a heavy accent, but not always. Scammers often target businesses during busy times so that the business representative is distracted, or even better for the scammer, imagines what would happen if the power suddenly shut off.
Utility scam calls are on the rise in Snohomish County. We are seeing calls from robo-dialers with recorded instructions to call an 800 number. There have been 46 reported scam attempts against Snohomish PUD customers so far this month.
Businesses can protect themselves by gaining knowledge and being prepared: