Scam sought prepayment for utilities

Photo by Chad Koenen
A phone scam was reported last week that involved unsolicited calls for Henning Public Utility customers. As part of the scam, residents were told they could get a discount on their utilities by prepaying their bill.

By Chad Koenen


A new scam had a local twist to it as Henning Public Utility customers were targeted by scammers last week. 

Henning Police Chief Mike Helle said a phone scam offered a discount to Henning utility customers if they prepaid their bill over the phone. 

“They could save money by putting money down early,” said Helle.

The Henning Police Department received at least five phone calls, mostly on March 1, from residents who said they received a similar phone scam. Helle said the City of Henning does not offer a discount for prepaying utilities over the phone.

“The caller said they are with the City of Henning with the utilities,” said Helle. “The guy was really convincing on the phone, which they all are.”

What made the scam even more believable was that the phone number originated from a local 218 area code. Helle said this was a computer generated number and several people did take advantage of the unsolicited scam by giving out their debit or credit card information out over the phone. 

Helle said the best rule of thumb is to not make payments over the phone, especially when the call is unsolicited. Those who fell victim to the scam could be out of money if the scammer was able to withdraw money before the scam was reported, however, people who realize they may have fallen victim to a scam should contact their bank and the authorities immediately. Steps can be taken to limit the amount of money scammers can withdraw from an account and also help authorities look for similarities in potential scams. 

“If you give them your number, notify the bank so they can flag it as fraudulent,” said Helle. “You probably will need to get a new debit card, but at least you won’t be out thousands (of dollars).”

Since many scammers are getting creative in how they approach people over the phone, Helle said the best rule of thumb is if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is a scam. In those circumstances the person is best served to hang up the phone and not give out any personal information over the phone. 

If a person had a question about a phone call they received, Helle suggested the person call the correct phone number for the city or agency. Since scammers can temporarily create computer generated phone numbers, calling back the number on the other line could simply result in another conversation with the scammers.

“Don’t call that number back. Call the right number back and check,” said Helle.

Anyone who thinks they may have fallen victim to a scam should contact the Henning Police Department or local authorities.