JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There has been a recent uptick in scam phone calls to JEA customers, the utility told News4Jax.
Since March 1, the utility has received at least 199 reports of fraudulent calls and, to date, nine customers have reported paying an amount ranging from $212 to $1,500, JEA said Friday.
Tatiana Boyaba spoke out about the scam because it was so convincing. She said it could've happened to other people, too.
"Actually, fully believing at least for 10 minutes that that's actually true made me feel unsafe," she said.
Boyaba has been a store owner in San Marco for five years. She said she was alarmed when a man called her, claiming to be a JEA representative and asking for money.
"I picked up the phone and I was basically told I am delinquent and I have a balance due and my business is about to be turned off," Boyaba said.
She said the fake JEA representative wanted her to pay $500 and tried hard to convince her that he was a real JEA employee.
"He said, 'Can anything have happened where the service was interrupted?' And I said, 'Well, in December, I had a banking issue," Boyaba said. "He said, 'Yup, you're delinquent for December, January and February.' So he kind of played off of what I said."
But while she was on the call, she knew something was wrong. It all fell apart when the caller told her to call them back. She did and got the automated system, which said she had a zero balance.
JEA has warned other customers about the calls, too. In February, the utility company sent out a memo. On Friday, JEA sent another notice, which says, in part:
JEA is again reporting a spike in scam phone calls and needs you to be alert and aware. Scammers have called local residents and businesses claiming to be from JEA and threatening to disconnect the customer’s service if a large sum of money isn’t paid within 30 minutes. Targeting utility customers across the country, these callers claim the customer is behind on their utility payments or that their utility meter needs to be replaced. The customer is then instructed to go to a Winn Dixie, CVS or Walgreens, buy a 'MoneyPak' payment card and call them back at the phone number provided with the MoneyPak card information and pin number to prevent their service from being disconnected."
JEA said the 800 number being used for these fraudulent calls has already been reported, but it is important to be aware of the tactics being used. JEA reminds customers it will never call to request a credit card to avoid disconnection.
Now that Boyaba knows the truth, she warns others to not be fooled.
"Be careful. Don't believe people on the phone," she said. "You have to always double-check everyone you're talking to."
Customers who receive one of these calls are urged to notify JEA at 904-665-6000. Commercial customers may call 904-665-6250 to speak with a JEA Business Support Team representative.