Scammers Target Local Businesses

CARSON CITY, NV - Things are business as usual at Comma Coffee in Carson City.

As you walk into the unique coffee shop, you'll see friends catching up over cups of java, a man quietly reading the newspaper, and a few scattered souls eating quick meals.

But just a few days ago, the lights in the popular café almost went off.

"I was at work on my lunch break when I got a frantic call from my fellow manager that a utility bill had not been paid," Shepard Darquea said.

Darquea is the son of Comma Coffee's owner, June Joplin. He and fellow manager Amber Keating were left in charge of the business while Joplin took a vacation.

So when a man called the coffee shop claiming to work for NV Energy and told Keating they owed nearly $1000 on a late energy bill, she was frantic.

"I don't know what's going on with the bills," Keating said. "I don't know any of that!"

So she called Darquea who was on break at his other job to help sort out the situation.

"Mainly I was just concerned about those employees who wouldn't get their hours if the energy was shut of," he said.

Darquea said he wanted to take care of the bill right away, but was concerned because the recent bills he and Keating found were all up to date.

"I told [the man] that we had paid our August bill and our September one wasn't due until the 23rd," he said.

But this bill, the man claimed, was from July.

"And he said we needed to pay in cash so there's no pending time for the transaction," Darquea said.

They almost fell for it. But there were a few signs in the conversation with this "utility worker" that made both managers stop and pause.

"When I dialed the number Amber gave me, I asked for extension 107, and the man told me this was 107," Darquea said. "I thought it was odd that I dialed an extension right away."

"He said when they call back there's going to be codes on the receipt that I need to read to him," Keating said. "And I'm like that's weird. I've paid an NV energy bill late and that's not what happens."

Darquea said Comma Coffee was not the only business in Carson to be targeted. He works at another restaurant in town, and on the same day, they received a similar call.

NV Energy tells KOLO 8 News Now it will never call customers who are in danger of having their lights shut off. It will always contact customers by mail.

In a statement released by NV Energy, officials tell customers they never "call customers and solicit payments. If customers receive a call asking for a payment, they should refuse and call local law enforcement official or NV Energy if they have additional questions."

Both Darquea and Keating are happy they realized they were being scammed before it was too late, but Keating says it's sad that people would target a local business.

"I know times are tough right now, especially small businesses," she said. "But every one is having just as tough a time as you are."