Utility scam resurfaces, targeting restaurants and bars

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COLUMBIA - Commercial accounts are targets of a utility scam making it's way through Columbia. 

Houlihan's General Manager Nicole Becker said she received a call and was told to provide over $1,800 in a wire transfer within 30 minutes or else Houlihan's utilities would be disconnected. She said she knew this wasn't right because a day earlier she received the restaurant's utility statement with a balance of zero.

"It was scary, had I not been here as a general manager and known that, anyone could have sent off the information," she said.

She said the man on the line had a thick accent and was hard to understand. When she started questioning the man she said he got "very irate". The man on the line was calling from a 866 number claiming to be general manager Mark Montgomery in charge of all disconnections for the city.

La Siesta employee Devin Merz said he received a similar call, but it was an American female voice with no apparent accent.

Utility Services Specialist Connie Kacprowicz said Houlihan's, The Blue Note, Coffee Zone, La Siesta, and Shakespeare's have all reported receiving these types of calls. Kacprowicz said this scam has been going on since January.

"It seems like they kind of lay low for a while and then re-appear. The last time we had this happen was at the end of June. People are calling [utility customers] and saying that their account is delinquent," she said. 

The Columbia Police Department said in a press release there are a few things to watch out for to know if you are being targeted:

  • Never send cash, money orders or provide personal information if you do not know the source.
  • City of Columbia staff members are not allowed to take any payments over the phone.
  • If something doesn't seem right, it's not right.
If you receive this type of call, CPD asks that you call its non-emergency line at 573-442-6131.

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