HORRY COUNTY — With tax refunds and stimulus money appearing in bank accounts soon, Santee Cooper is asking for the public to be aware of scammers attempting to take advantage.
The electric utility's customers recently were greeted to a robocall system, unbeknownst to them, after dialing the company's main telephone number.
"If the customer hit '1' they were directed to a person, where they were asked for their personal information and given a made-up balance," according to the company.
Any questioning of the scammer led to a threat of a power cut-off and customers were given an option of paying with a gift card.
Santee Cooper said that recipients of these types of calls are usually asking to pay with that form of currency because they can't be traced back to return any money lost.
"We will never ask you to pay with a pre-paid gift card," the company said. "A pre-paid, third-party payment card request is a red flag. These cards are used to hide the identity of the recipient. Also, it is very difficult to stop the process once the serial number on the card has been entered."
Another red flag is that the scammer usually calls outside of business hours while Santee Cooper said that isn't in their policy.
"Scammers will use off-hours so the customer cannot make a 'verification call' to the actual company during business hours," the company said. "Anytime someone has called you demanding immediate payment, hang up and call us directly. Do not call a number provided by the caller."
Santee Cooper said they "will never demand payment over the phone."
They also remind customers to never give personal information out over the phone when they "are not the one who made contact."
The company said these calls come in "waves."
While reports have slowed down since Christmas, they say law enforcement expects another wave in mid-January.
"We encourage anyone who gets a phone call from someone claiming to be a company, or demanding payment or personal information, to double check who the caller may be," Horry County Police PIO Mikayla Moskov said. "You can do so by ending the call without providing the information requested, and then calling the alleged company or individual back at an officially recognized number."