JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Small business owners across Jacksonville are reporting a rash of suspicious phone calls from people claiming to be representatives of JEA.
Khalid Anwar, owner of Shalimar Groceries on the Southside, is the latest JEA customer that almost became a victim.
At 10:16 a.m. Thursday, Anwar says he received a phone call from a man claiming to work for the JEA Disconnection Department. The man told Anwar he was overdue on his bill and that a technician was on his way to the store to shut the power off if he couldn’t pay the bill.
“He said, ‘We're going to disconnect the power at 10:45, and you have 40 minutes to pay your bill.’ I have refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning that all has to stay on. He tried to scare me into acting fast.”
Anwar knew, however, that his account was up to date.
“He asked me, ‘How much have you paid?’ I said, ‘You are calling from JEA, and you don't know?”
Although the man gave him a phone number to call back with a credit card, Anwar immediately called JEA.
JEA spokewoman Gerri Boyce says Anwar did the right thing, but other local business owners have been scared into paying thousands of dollars. In the past week alone, 11 customers have reported suspicious calls.
“They're asking them to go to a Radio Shack or a CVS pharmacy to purchase a preloaded card and call them back and give them the pin.”
Boyce says JEA would never do that. Instead, she says, JEA would send a note on a customer’s bill, then a second notification by mail, and then leave a recorded message. Boyce is frustrated an alleged scammer would use their company name.
Acton News called the 904 number that Anwar was told to call, and the answering machine claims it’s the JEA Disconnection Department, but we traced it to Ymax Communications Corp., also known as MagicJack.
JSO Officer Melissa Bujeda says that’s making it difficult to find the thieves responsible.
“Nowadays with technology you can be in Arizona and have your phone number pop up as a 904 number.”
Bujeda says the alleged scammers are not just claiming to be from JEA alone. Recently, mortgage, insurance and credit card company names are all being used, and victims of all types are often tricked into paying big.
“Anyone out there who has gotten a phone call from these people, let us know.”
Bujeda says the person or persons responsible could face charges of felony fraud and grand theft. If you think you’re a victim, call JEA's commercial customer service line at (904) 665-6250 as well as JSO at (904) 630-0500.