Electric bill scammer in Middletown, Delaware

MIDDLETOWN, Del. - October 29, 2013

At least eight Middletown establishments have come forward in recent weeks. In each case, a person called and threatened to cut off power if a bill wasn't immediately paid over the phone with a credit card.

This scam surfaced last week at the Middletown Seafood Market. Owner Scott Lawrence got a call near closing time from someone telling him he was from the Delmarva Power Collections Department.

Scott explains, "He basically told me that I had an outstanding electric bill and I had to have the entire amount paid by credit card within the next couple of minutes or so or else they were going to send a truck to cut off my electricity within the hour."

Scott thought, could this somehow be for real? A shutoff, even overnight, would destroy thousands of dollars worth of his inventory.

But hold on. Scott knows he's not a customer of Delmarva. He pays Middletown Township directly for the service. So he went straight to the mayor, who called the police.

In all, the cops have now heard from eight local small businesses - mostly restaurant and markets - all targeted by the same scammers claiming to be from Delmarva Power Collections.

Middletown Police Chief Henry Tobin says the scammers are, "essentially telling the business owners that if they don't make a payment on their electric bill, there's going to be a truck en route to turn their electric off. And many of the business owners have gotten quite alarmed by it."

Scott says, "[The scammer] told me the exact amount of my current balance on my electric bill. And then I got a little worried because then I thought maybe this guy is legit."

The police have sent flyers to all the local businesses that fit the profile and have made reverse phone calls to warn Middletown residents.

Middletown police say at least one local merchant has been fleeced. If you get a suspicious call, contact police and help them trace it.

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