PATASKALA, OH (WCMH)–A telephone caller targeting businesses was slick enough to con a savvy former mayor and business owner.
Steve Butcher said he and his wife have owned the Nutcracker 50s Family Diner in Pataskala for 22 years.
On Thursday, a caller posing as an AEP Ohio representative told him the electrical power to his business was going to be shut off because he had not paid for a security deposit. But that was only part of why Butcher said he was conned.
NBC4 was at the diner when the man called back a second time.
As Pataskala’s mayor for 8 years, Butcher said he had witnessed police deal with a lot of different scams, but what hooked him on this one was the caller ID number.
“One of the numbers he called on was an AEP Ohio number,” said Butcher.
In fact, the number (800-672-2231) was to their service center. Butcher said the thought of his freezer and cooler thawing out really alarmed him.
“We have a lot of inventory, do a lot of business and to be closed is a great way of getting my reaction,” he said.
His wife followed instructions from the caller, went to an authorized AEP pay location at Kroger, and paid a $1,000 security deposit with a Visa Cash card.
The caller wasn’t done. He called Butcher back and was upset after the scam started to unravel and Butcher attempted to stop the payment.
Butcher repeated what the caller told him, “He said he is with AEP Ohio and we have been trying to do a refund and stop payment on the cards. If your wife authorized that we are going to put you back on the disconnect.”
NBC4 asked AEP Ohio about this false representation.
Spokesperson Vikki Michalski said, “AEP Ohio never demands immediate payment, we will never insist on a prepaid credit card.”
As for cloning or spoofing AEP Ohio’s service center phone number?
“We had reports of that happening earlier this year, that our number was showing up as the number they were calling from, but they give another number for people to call back and that should be immediately suspect,” she said. Butcher said he was given an 855 number to call and that should have been a red flag.
Butcher said he is still working to get their $1,000 back, but said this is a warning to other business owners when you this kind of call, hang up and call AEP Ohio for confirmation.