Franklin state police investigate another phone scam

By JIM MEYER – Staff writer

Franklin state police investigated yet another phone scam targeting area residents this week, this time by a caller impersonating a Penelec representative.

The incident occurred Tuesday as an unknown caller directed a Cranberry Township business to purchase a Money Pak pre-paid debit card from a pharmacy for $500 in order not to have the electricity shut off, police said.

The woman at the Cranberry business contacted Penelec and discovered she had been scammed, police said.

Scott Surgeoner, a spokesman for First Energy, Penelec’s parent company, said anyone demanding immediate payment or threatening to terminate service is definitely a scam caller.

“First and foremost, we do not telephone customers and demand immediate payment ever,” Surgeoner said. “We may try to contact a customer with a past due amount, but we never ever request immediate payment.”

Phone scammers commonly request payment through a Green Dot Money Pak card, which is a prepaid debit card but lacks the security of being connected to a checking account or credit line.

Surgeoner said First Energy companies don’t accept Money Pak cards as payment.

Surgeoner said First Energy has a procedure it is required to follow before it is allowed to terminate service. This process, he explained, includes several written notices, phone calls and an attempted visit to the home.

Penelec’s website says there have been some cases of individuals posing as utility workers appearing at a customer’s home and threatening to shut off the power.

“Every Penelec employee has a photo ID badge,” Surgeoner said. “Ask to see it.”

Surgeoner reminded customers that if they know they are up to date on payments, then they should know for sure that the call is a scam. He also said missing a single payment won’t result in termination, and he encouraged customers to call Penelec at 1-800-545-7741 if they suspect they may be behind on payments.

“Anytime someone calls and says your power will be shut off within an hour or two, it is a scam,” Surgeoner said. “If you do fall on hard times, we understand that and we will work with you.”