“It sounded very professional:” How to avoid the latest JEA imposter scam

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Every day scammers are finding new ways to weasel their way into your bank or credit card accounts.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “imposter scams” were the most common type of fraud in 2020.

Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole shares the story of one man who almost fell victim to a scammer pretending to be from a familiar utility provider.

Pay up or have your lights turn off! That’s the message Larry Leonard received last week from someone he thought was a JEA representative.

Turns out it was someone else trying to rip him off.

”And they were saying that in order to keep our service from being disconnected, we would have to pay $100 by the next day,” Leonard explained to Cole.

Leonard, a JEA customer going on 12 years, said he received the scam call last week.

He said the scammer even gave him an account number, where they wanted him to send the money!

“And I thought that was very strange, because I’ve never known JEA to do that.”

When Cole asked him what made this call feel real to him he said, “It sounded very professional. It sounded like it would have been a JEA call.”

According to the FTC, consumers reported losing nearly $1.2 billion from imposter scams like this one. Leonard said he knew something wasn’t right, so he asked his wife to call JEA.

“Come to find out, we had a $9 credit!” Leonard said.

Cole reached out to JEA and Simone Garvey-Ewan, the Media Relations Coordinator sent her the following statement:

“JEA Customer Advisers are getting reports from customers who have been contacted via phone, text message and email by scammers. Most commonly, the reports indicate that scammers are very pushy, they request money to be paid in 30 minutes to avoid disconnection, and they ask customers to send a payment through the Cash App, Zelle or a personal check. Our internal teams are working to get these numbers shut down. If you are targeted by a scammer or are not sure if the call, text or email you receive is legitimate, JEA urges you to call (904) 665-6000. We will pursue the disconnection of fraudulent numbers as quickly as possible.”

She also shared this helpful information for customers:

Q: Have you had any other customers tell you about similar experiences?

A: JEA frequently receives scam reports, but our teams constantly work to educate customers on scam activity. We also make it a priority to work with our partners to get fraudulent numbers shut down as soon as they are reported.

Q: How can a customer tell if JEA is really calling them?

A: JEA encourages customers to familiarize themselves with these tips:

  • Never provide or confirm personal information (Social Security number, date of birth) or financial information (banking account information, debit or credit card information) to anyone initiating contact with you, whether by phone, in-person, or email, claiming to be a utility company representative
  • Never purchase a prepaid card or respond via a mobile payment app, (Cash App, PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, etc.), to avoid service interruptions. JEA does not accept payments via Cash App, PayPal, Venmo and Zelle.
  • Scammers can be very threatening. Customers should record the toll-free number, hang up and call JEA at (904) 665-6000.
  • Customers who feel that they are in physical danger should first call 911.
  • Visit jea.com/scams for a comprehensive list of what to look for.

“I felt like maybe I did the right thing checking up on it,” Leonard said.

JEA said if you do have a delinquent account, you will be notified multiple times before you’re disconnected.