BROWNWOOD, Texas - Brownwood police are urging the community to be cautious when it comes to receiving phone calls about paying bills.
"If anyone calls you, wanting your money, that's wrong," Brownwood Assistant Chief of Police James Fuller said.
According to Fuller, a couple of small businesses recently lost about $1,000 to $1,500 after falling victim to phone scams.
He said scam artists would call business owners, and even citizens, and say they are representatives from electricity companies such as Oncor or Ambit Energy.
"They claim to have an overdue bill for an amount and that the disconnection will occur within an hour or two if not paid," Fuller said.
Because of the urgency of the call, business owners would immediately go purchase "Green Dot Money Pak" cards without a second thought. "One of them was a laundromat, and when you have 15 to 20 families in there doing laundry, you don't want the power to go out so they're really concerned for the customers. That fear of having no electricity -- I'm sure the lost income over one day of work is probably detrimental."
If you ever get a call about bills, Fuller said you need to ask for an itemized statement. Remember that legitimate businesses will send that, and they will give you a reasonable timeline to pay. You also need to check your bill and it's safer to call the 1-800 number listed there.
He said detectives try to track the money to see where it was withdrawn from or transferred to, but it's usually hard to get the money back because it ends up in another country.
Asst. Chief Fuller also said there is another scam where people have been pretending to be law enforcement officers over the phone.
"They'll say they have a warrant for arrest...that you owe a certain amount of money, but if you pay this amount, they won't come get you. Law enforcement doesn't generally do that. If such is the case, we will ask you, 'When can you come in?' We'd never ask, 'When can you mail us?'"
He added that it is important to be mindful of how you usually pay your bills, to guard your information and to not do anything over the phone.