Orem dessert cafe owner foils scammer posing as electricity company
Spenser Heaps, AP
OREM — It isn't every day that you get to have a little fun at the expense of the bad guys, but Craig Christiansen had that very experience in late June.
Christiansen, owner of The Chocolate in Orem, received a message that power was going to be shut off at his business if he did not respond immediately with a payment. Christiansen first called Rocky Mountain Power before returning the message. He found out the person who called was a scammer.
After he discovered everything with his account at Rocky Mountain Power was on the up and up, he decided it was time to have a little fun at the expense of the scammer. He detailed the conversation on The Chocolate's Facebook page.
The scammer identified himself as Abraham and told Christiansen that he worked for the Rocky Mountain Disconnection Department a department that doesn't exist. Abraham continued in his explanation of the power payment situation and then asked if the store had received a letter on May 17 that informed him about his payment delinquency. Christiansen said he turned on the snark quickly especially since the scam artist had called in the middle of dinner.
"Well, I didn't get it. Did you forget to put a stamp on it?" Christiansen asked.
The scammer asked him if he was being trying to be funny, to which Christiansen again responded by explaining if a stamp wasn't on the envelope that he wouldn't receive the letter. His response seemed to frustrate Abraham.
"I think you are trying to be funny with me," Abraham responded, according to the Facebook post.
Despite Christiansen's playful responses the scammer didn't give up. He said Christiansen was two months behind on payments and that was when things got kicked up a notch.
Christiansen explained that it was impossible for the business to be behind two months because it was set up for the power company to do an auto-withdrawal - but there was a catch. The Chocolate, he explained, paid its bills with a different form of currency.
"We pay with snickerdoodles. We don't use normal currency. We pay 5,000 snickerdoodles a month," Christiansen told Abraham.
At that point, Abraham realized he had been had and disconnected the call.
Jeff Hymas with Rocky Mountain Power said Christiansen was fortunate to identify that the call was a scam. He said the company received at least eight calls per day with a customer reporting a similar phone scam and that one of those per week had fallen victim to the scam and paid what the scammers were asking.
Hymas said there are certain things to know about Rocky Mountain Power and their payment practices to help the public avoid being taken for a ride.
"We don't operate that way. We don't threaten our customers like that," Hymas said. "We work with customers who are past due on their bills to get them back on track."
Hymas said the power company does not ask for credit card numbers or cold call people about their past-due bills. Rather, the company does an automated voice mail asking customers to contact Rocky Mountain Power about their bill. Hymas said if someone has a question or if he is dealing with a legitimate Rocky Mountain Power official, the customer should end the call and then call the company's toll-free number listed on their website.
The story ended well for Christiansen. He avoided being scammed and he has notified thousands of people through his company's Facebook page about the scam to help them avoid the scammer.
To thank him for spreading the word about the scammer, Rocky Mountain Power ordered 10 dozen snickerdoodles for their employees who handle the phone calls from Rocky Mountain Power customers.
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