We Energies warns of scam targeting business owners

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- You get a call saying there's been a glitch in the utilities system, and your power is being cut off. Do you panic and pay the bill? We Energies says not so fast! We Energies officials are warning customers. They say scammers are targeting business owners.

We Energies officials say this particular scam was first reported back in 2012 -- and it has now resurfaced. As we approach the end of the winter heating moratorium -- We Energies officials say they're seeing an increase in the number of scam calls being reported.

"A couple hundred reports. About 75 of those have come in just the last two weeks," Cathy Schulze with We Energies said.

Schulze says at first, residential customers were affected, but now -- businesses are being targeted as well.

"I got a call from my bartender last Wednesday that I better get down to the bar -- that WI Electric is going to shut me down," Patrick Campbell -- the owner of Packy's Pub said.

Campbell says he panicked.

"I called the number. They said 'yes sir -- we had a glitch in the system and your bar got red flagged.' I'm like 'okay whatever.' They said, 'you`ve got an hour to pay this bill or we are coming to shut you down right now,'" Campbell said.

Campbell says he complied -- paying $1,400 through GreenDot.

"I went and paid the bill. Kind of flags went up on my own self and I called back the next day and there was no answer," Campbell said.

Campbell then called We Energies. The utility had no indication of there being an issue with Campbell's account.

"I got scammed," Campbell said.

Campbell says the crooks were clever.

"You call the number and it's exactly like WI Electric. You get somebody and she says 'I have to put you on to my supervisors to stop them from coming to get you,'" Campbell said.

Schulze says the phone scammers are getting even more sophisticated.

"We had heard reports from some customers who say the number on their caller ID actually shows We Energies," Schulze said.

Scammers are also using fake voicemails.

We Energies has posted several alerts on various sites and blogs.

Meanwhile, Campbell says he hopes his story will help prevent others from falling victim.

"I hope everybody will just stay wise," Campbell said.

We Energies says customers at risk of having their power shut off will receive several warnings before it gets to the point of disconnection.

Those warnings come in the mail. We Energies says it will do outbound calling later on in the process.

If you get a call that seems suspicious, you're urged to hang up and call We Energies to verify the status of your account.