PASCO COUNTY (FOX 13) - Duke Energy is warning all of its customers about an elaborate phone scam.
The caller pretends to work for Duke and demands customers make a payment on their past due account or risk disconnection.
"In the last two months, we've really seen a surge in activity," said Suzanne Grant, spokesperson for Duke Energy Florida. "In Florida, the number of people that have called in to report a scam attempt has almost doubled."
Cindy Evers, owner of Planned Pethood Pasco County, is the latest customer to fall victim.
"They knew my account number. He said, you owe $900, which is close to what my bill is, and the number he gave me to call answered Duke Energy," said Evers.
Scammers have duplicated Duke's phone recording, so when customers call them back, they hear the company's exact recording.
Evers said although she knew her account was not past due, she could not risk having her power turned off over an accounting error, so she followed the caller's instructions and wired a cash payment.
"There are animals sedated on the table having surgery, and we have to have electricity to keep them breathing," said Evers.
This month alone, 180 Duke customers in Florida have gotten fraudulent calls.
The company is tracking the scam closely. Since June of 2015, its customers were conned out of $109,226. This month, customers in Florida were scammed out of for $534.
"If someone calls you, you're getting pressured and you think this might be a scam, assume it is, hang up the phone and then call us back," said Grant.
Even if a customer is behind on payments, Duke officials say they will always give advanced notice with each bill prior to disconnection.
"We will never call you and ask you for a payment, demanding a payment within a few minutes in order to not turn power off. That's not the way we do business. It's not the way any of the utilities in Florida do business. It's a scam," said Grant.
If you get a suspicious call, you are urged to hang up and call your local authorities, then call Duke Energy.