Local businesses hit by fake utility scam - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

Local businesses hit by fake utility scam

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Orale Kitchen utilities threatened to be shut of by scammers Orale Kitchen utilities threatened to be shut of by scammers

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned Ohio restaurants about being targeted by utility scams. Scammers threaten to shut off the restaurant's power unless it provides immediate payment.

"Scams are often underreported, so it's likely that other businesses have been affected," DeWine said. "We want to make sure all Ohio businesses know about this and warn their employees. It's hard enough to run a business without having to worry about con artists trying to take advantage of you or your employees."

Several Cleveland restaurants have been hit, including Orale Kitchen on West 25th St.

The bad guys threatening to shut off their power if they didn't pay up.

"It was too late. They already had their money," says Ann Madansky, the general manager of Orale Kitchen.

"We were in the middle of a lunch rush and we got a phone call. Initially he said CCP, and I corrected him, 'you mean CPP, Cleveland Public Power?, they said yeah, yeah."

Ann Madansky says they were scammed more than a month ago, losing about $500, and it happened fast.

The guy on the other line threatened to shut off their gas if they didn't pay an alleged bill with a prepaid money card.

"We had no time to really think what was going on. Operating a restaurant, you can't shut off your gas, you need heat to run your stove," says Mandansky.

The same thing happened to this Vietnamese restaurant on Detroit Road. The business out nearly $800.

The victims filed complaints with the Ohio Attorney General's Office. Unfortunately, they can't get their money back.

Now Madansky hopes speaking out will keep other from making the same mistake.

"It was not even five minutes after we had given them the information from the money card and it was gone. We both looked at each other, like seriously, we just got taken for a ride," says Madansky.

Businesses should take the following steps to protect themselves:

· Be skeptical of callers who threaten to shut off your power unless you make an immediate payment.

· If you receive a suspicious or threatening call, hang up and call your utility company using a number you know to be legitimate.

· Demand information in writing before sending any payment.

· Don't trust someone who says you must pay using a prepaid money card or wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods for scammers.

· Warn employees about potential scams.

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