HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Appalachian Power Officials are sending out a warning about a telephone scam targeting its customers.
Several businesses have received calls from someone posing as an AEP worker. The caller claims their bill is past due, and if they don't pay, their power will be shut off.
"It's the perfect way to get a small business, because that's what we need," Meghan Spears said. "We have to have electricity to run."
Spears' business, Syrra Salon, is one of several in Kanawha City targeted in the scam.
"One of the stylists came up to me and said the power company is on the phone and they were going to cut the power off in 45 minutes," Spears said. "He told me the only way I could do this is if I go to CVS, Walmart or 7/11 and get a gift card. I was talking with another stylist and he immediately said, 'Um that sounds like a scam.'"
It was the same story at Tropical Moon Frozen Yogurt in Huntington.
"It felt like the whole thing was real," Manager Ryan Lake said. "The one thing they told us was they wanted us to go to CVS, Rite-Aid or somewhere and get a re-loadable card. That's when I was like this doesn't make sense."
AEP Spokesman Phil Moye says his company is aware of dozens of similar attempts.
"We've had at least 30 instances where people have called customers and pretended to be an Appalachian Power employee," Moye said. "We're seeing a spike of that in West Virginia right now."
Moye says customers can protect themselves by keeping an eye out for these red flags.
"Our employees never take cash, won't accept a cash card, always carry identification and generally will show up on your property in a company identified vehicle," Moye said.
AEP's Security Operations Center is now investigating this scam with the help of local law enforcement. If you're an AEP customer and receive a suspicious call, officials say you should get as much information from the caller as you can and then report it to them at 1-800-982-4237.