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Utility scam known by We Energies now targeting business owners

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A new scam has callers posing as the power company! We Energies says it has heard of the scam before, but this time, the scam is targeting business owners.

On Wednesday night, September 11th, someone called a Milwaukee restaurant, threatening to turn off the lights.

"I kept saying 'what? This doesn't make any sense,'" Natalia Radicevich said.

Radicevich says the dinner rush was just starting on Wednesday when she got the phone call. The caller claimed to represent We Energies.

"It was very urgent. The wanted money immediately.  They were saying that within one hour all my gas and electricity was going to be disconnected unless I paid at this very moment," Radicevich said.

Overwhelmed by the thought of the power going out while customers enjoyed dinner, Radicevich put the call on hold.

The more she thought about it, the more she started to have doubts.

"There was no way that I could have slipped up and missed a payment or anything," Radicevich said.

We Energies says it has received several hundred reports of the scam, with about one in 10 people falling victim.

"It was first reported by our customers about a year-and-a-half ago.  It'll pick up for a few months, it'll die back down, and then it tends to resurface. Lately we've seen a spike in activity," We Energies Spokeswoman Cathy Schulze said.

Sometimes, the scammer wants credit card information, and other times, a Green Dot card.

"Go to the store, buy one of these pre-paid cards which is already loaded with your money and then divulge that information over the phone," Schulze said.

For Radicevich, it only took a simple question to scare the scammer off.

"Can I have your name and phone number? At that point, he just hung up," Radicevich said.

We Energies says if the phone call just doesn't sound right, hang up, and call We Energies Customer Service Care Line, which operates 24 hours. The number is 800-242-9137 for residential, and 800-714-7777 for business.