FRIENDSWOOD, Texas – Several residents in one neighborhood near Friendswood say they've been targeted by a phone scam involving criminals pretending to be CenterPoint Energy bill collectors.
Many of the calls happened Monday to people living in the Heritage Park subdivision. The calls came from Douglass, Kansas and 888 numbers.
A senior couple on a fixed income fell for the scam and lost $500.
"This guy just said if you don't call this number within 45 minutes your power's going to be cut off. There's a truck on its way," said Gail Gibson.
She said the man sounded angry and convincing. And she was in a rush to leave the house.
"I was leaving for chorus real soon and I didn't want my husband to sit in the dark," she said.
The man told her to get $500 cash then put it on a cash card called a Money Pak.
She got the card at a Friendswood Walgreens, loaded the money, then scratched off the back to give the number to the man on the phone so he could access the cash.
When she received another call claiming the card was rejected and she now owed $900, she hung up, realizing she'd been had.
In a statement to Channel 2 News, a spokesperson for CenterPoint Energy said, "We at CenterPoint Energy take safety and security concerns of our customers very seriously. Unfortunately, sometimes criminals pose as utility company representatives and try to steal customers' money or personal information."
The statement went on to say:
"Customers who believe they have been targeted by CenterPoint Energy impersonators should know that:
"Our phone agents will NEVER personally request banking or credit card info over the phone. INSTEAD, we transfer customers to an Interactive Voice Response system to collect payment info.
"Our agents will NEVER ask for payment via:
- Money wire transfers
- Prepaid debit cards (Green Dot cards)
- Gift cards (Amazon, etc.)
- PayPal, Venmo, Square Pay or Apple Pay
"We will NOT disconnect your services without first:
- Mailing you a bill, noting your account is now overdue.
- If the balance remains unpaid, we will mail you a DISCONNECTION NOTICE, stating the approximate disconnection date and time."
It's unclear how or why people in Heritage Park are being targeted. Gibson filed a report with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.