WRAL Investigates

Phone scam targets Triangle businesses

Posted October 1, 2014

— While serving up cakes, cookies and fresh baked breads, a popular local bakery almost got taken by a scam – one that many others have fallen for.

Missy Vatinet, owner of La Farm Bakery in Cary, says she received a call that her energy bill hadn’t been paid and the electricity would be shut off within an hour.

“It was the timing of the call,” she said. “We got the call about an hour before lunch.”

Vatinet and her husband, Lionel Vatinet, were certain it was just a mistake with Duke Energy Progress. Their billing cycle had just changed, but they didn’t want to risk losing everything that was baking, nor their approaching lunch rush.

“So, it was a very good time to try to catch us off our guard,” Missy Vatinet said.

The caller said the easiest way to immediately resolve the problem was for the Vatinets to buy reloadable Green Dot money cards, totaling $1,491, scratch them off and call back with the numbers.

The owner of Tasty 8's Gourmet Hotdog Co. in downtown Raleigh says he got the same call during lunch. Brett Wells rushed to get $957 worth of Green Dot cards but stopped when his landlord verified the scam.

Duke Energy Progress has posted a warning online, letting customers know about the scam. The company that issues Green Dot credit cards, MoneyPak, also posted a warning on its website.

Since Green Dot cards are easy cash for scammers, they combine them with all sorts of scenarios – money owed for a red-light ticket or a missed court appearance.

The scammers have also used the grandparent scam, where they call pretending to be with the grandchild who needs money because of an emergency. Another tactic is the supposed kidnapper scam, where they demand ransom for a loved one and even have someone screaming for help in the background.

No matter the scam, the goal is the same – to get your money. Luckily for La Farm Bakery, a store clerk warned Lionel Vatinet before he bought the money cards. Other business owners were in the same store, at the same time, tricked by the same call. Missy Vatinet verified the scam with Duke Energy by phone.

Duke Energy says it may call to discuss a delinquent account, but customers will get multiple notifications over several weeks before service is disconnected. The company never requires customers to buy a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.


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  • htomc42 Oct 3, 2014

    I want to kn ow how and why the NSA can monitor all of our calls and communications, yet can't seem to do a thing to protect us against this particular variety of predators.

  • dh1964 Oct 2, 2014

    View quoted thread

    If anybody demands a payment in an hour, whether they want a major credit card or not, then something is up. Nobody does business that way.

  • raphael27520 Oct 2, 2014

    Only not very bright "business" owners will fall for this.

  • Earth Brooks Oct 2, 2014

    I would have told them to go ahead and turn my power off and refund my deposit within 1 hour with green dot money cards.

  • JAT Oct 2, 2014

    Who does this? I would have hung up on them. They should have enough common sense to know that Duke Energy doesn't operate that way. Makes me wonder about their business sense.

  • ligonmaterial23 Oct 2, 2014

    Two words give it away . Geen Dot

  • Ijaz Fahted Oct 2, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Pretty much. Why do people fall for this junk?

  • redapace Oct 2, 2014

    "If I got a call like that i'd know something was fishy."

    In less than 10 seconds. How many calls does a scammer have to make to find a business owner that is gullible enough to fall for something like this?

  • MudLife Oct 2, 2014

    You should know it was scam. Who asks for that much money on green dot cards? Common sense people! If I got a call like that i'd know something was fishy.

  • Jack Miller Oct 2, 2014
    user avatar

    If a reputable company ask for payment other than a major Credit Card then something is up. The key is common sense.