Scammers Targeting Utility Customers


Bristol, TN – Telephone scammers are targeting utility customers in our local area.
Two customers of Bristol Tennessee Essential Services were targeted on Wednesday in a ploy to extort money.

BTES is warning its customers about a scam that attempts to steal money using telephone calls threatening power disconnection unless a pre-paid gift card is purchased at a nearby retailer like CVS, Walgreens, the Dollar Tree and Walmart.

The caller presents themselves as a representative of BTES and informs the victim that their account is past due and their electricity will be disconnected that day unless they purchase a pre-paid gift card and call them back with the information. The caller tells the victim that they must pay in this manner and not at the BTES office because it is the fastest way to ensure that their electricity will not be disconnected.

“BTES does not initiate calls to our customers requesting payments outside of our normal methods,” said Mike Browder, CEO of BTES. “We never ask anyone to purchase a gift card to pay their bill and we don’t call and ask for credit card information. Our customers can pay by credit card, but they go through our website to set that up.”

BTES is urging customers to remain vigilant. The scammer seems to be looking at a map of our community and using actual addresses in Bristol during the phone call to sound more legitimate.
“They are calling from a Magic Jack telephone number from Chattanooga that has a 423 area code, but the call could be originating from anywhere in the world,” said Browder. “The connection is not good which is not typical of the Class 5 telephone switch that BTES and EPB in Chattanooga provide.”

Anyone receiving a suspicious call should not give out personal information, including account or credit card numbers. If you receive a suspicious phone call and have caller ID on your telephone, document the telephone number and report it to BTES and local authorities.
To verify the authenticity of anyone claiming to be a representative of BTES, call BTES’ main line at 423-968-1526.

“We strive to make our customers aware of potential scams so they can protect themselves from becoming victims of identity theft and other fraudulent activities,” said Browder.