CHICAGO (CBS) — A warning for homeowners: Beware of who’s knocking at your door or calling claiming to be with ComEd. The weather is warm, and that means utility scam and home repair scam seasons are just beginning.
ComEd and the Better Business Bureau teamed up Tuesday to warn consumers to watch out for people posing as utility workers to cheat people out of their money.
Most victims of utility scams tend to be elderly people, but ComEd said an increasing number of victims are in the Hispanic community.
ComEd and the Better Business Bureau said it’s a combination of spoof calls and in-person scams.
“They look very credible. People are typically very charming. They have a good story to tell, and this lack of awareness and people just wanting to believe people are doing something good for them lead them to fall victim,” ComEd vice president Fidel Marquez said.
Scammers have stolen more than $26,000 from Chicagoans so far this year, including from Norma Chilaca, owner of Nicky’s Hot Dogs in Garfield Ridge.
“I was very embarrassed, because I always thought ‘Never me,’ but here I am,” Chilaca.
A few months ago, Chilaca got a call from what she thought was ComEd, demanding she pay her bill, or they would shut off her electricity. She ended up wiring the person who called $500, which she never saw again.
“I’m an educated person. I’ve been in business for many years; other businesses. I’ve held corporate office positions, thinking this could never happen to me, I’m smarter than that, you know, I speak good English. But again, it happened to me. All I was thinking about was really running my business, and that really was my priority: keeping my business afloat.”
Chilaca said she began to realize something was wrong when the scammer asked her to pay up on prepaid debit cards.
Marquez said another sign of a scam is if someone demands you pay up in as little as 30 minutes.
“We will never call to threaten you with disconnection if you don’t pay immediately, or make a payment. We will not go to your home and knock on your door requesting to see payment,” Marquez said.