Valley businesses, customers tricked by electric bill scam

MESA, AZ - Lights off and no customers. It's exactly what Gary Gerbers was afraid would happen when he got a call during the morning rush saying he needed to pay the electricity bill at Cindy's Arizona Cafe.

"We were really busy and I said, 'I can't have them shut the power off,'" Gary explains.

His wife, Cindy, usually takes care of the bills. But, on this day, she wasn't there.

"I didn't want to get her upset saying we were going to get the power shut off, so I thought I'd do a good will thing," he says.

The scammer told Gary he was from Salt River Project in the Valley.

"It was a 480 number, I thought, 'yeah, that's legit,'" he remembers.

And Gary says this guy had answers for everything, "He said we sent two notifications in writing to you already. We have verification of that. And he said, we also called yesterday and left a message."

Not making the payment and risking the chance of not having electricity would have been a big deal.

"We would have been out of business that day," he says.

Not to mention, the thousands of dollars lost if the refrigerators didn't have power. So, Gary made the payment. 

When his wife called an hour later she said, "I knew something was up because of the price."

It was $489.12, which is far less than the typical utility bill at the restaurant.

"You don't get angry with your spouse. You don't get angry with someone else because it happened. What you do is try to stop it," she says.

It's why they're telling their story. As for Gary, he says he learned a very important lesson.

"Always check with Cindy first before I do anything stupid like that," he laughs.

The Gerbers called the police, who told them Cindy's Cafe wasn't the first one hit. In fact, SRP says this has been a big problem in the past couple of years.

They say the scammers don't just target businesses, but SRP customers, too.


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