A Connecticut restaurant owner is looking for answers after being scammed out of thousands of dollars over her electric bill.
“When they called me they said that they were Eversource and that I was overdue,” Mia Barnes, owner of Mia’s Primetime Cafe in Pawcatuck, said.
She said it happened during a busy day at the restaurant in March when someone claiming to be from Eversource called Barnes and said the power company was cutting off her electricity at the eatery due to non-payment.
“Said that I had an hour and a half to pay my bill or else they were going to shut me down,” Barnes said.
The caller had Barnes’s Eversource account number, and seemed legitimate, Barnes said. With a restaurant full of customers, she was willing to do anything to keep the lights on.
“I just immediately responded by saying 'Okay, well what do I need to do?'”
The caller insisted Barnes pay the $1,000 bill at a MoneyGram machine in Groton. The person said she would get a confirmation email when the payment was complete.
Barnes made the payment, but days later another person called demanding more money or shutoffs would follow.
“Then it happened two more times because I have three accounts with Eversource,” Barnes said.
Barnes forked a total of about $2,600, then received a poorly written letter of confirmation, riddled with errors, for the payments she had made. She thought the payments had made her account current, until she was actually visited by an Eversource technician who informed her she was severely past due. That is when she found out the account she had been transferring payments to wasn’t Eversource.
“And then that was when I said let me call NBC Troubleshooters,” Barnes said.
The Troubleshooters tried to see if there was anything that could be done for Barnes. We reached out to MoneyGram and the company said they will have a security team look it. Eversource said Barnes and others in this situation are out of luck.
“Unfortunately, if a customer is victimized by one of these scammers, there is not much we can do for them,” Tricia Modifica, an Eversource spokeswoman, said.
Modifica said people get victimized by this type of scam all the time and the power company tries to spread the word to stop it from happening.
“They are very clever. They are very sophisticated and intimidating with the way they approach any person they are about to scam,” Modifica said.
According to Modifica, the people committing the fraud will pressure victims to act fast, but before handing over money, verify that you actually owe and are speaking to Eversource.
“Always hang up the phone call us,” said Modifica. “If you get a call, no matter what kind of information they have and they say they are going to shut you off unless you make an immediate payment, that should be a big red flag.”
Modifica also said Eversource will never make aggressive demands on your money in exchange for keeping your electricity service going.
“If a customer is legitimately in danger have having their power shut off, they will get a written notice with instructions on what to do, what steps to take to avoid having their power shut off.”
Even though Barnes can’t get her money back, she hopes her story will be a lesson to others.
“The turmoil it created, I just do not want to see anybody else going through that," Barnes said.
Barnes plans to file a police report. For more information on the scam victimizing Eversource customers, click here.