Beware of the Scam–Call Central Electric

The recent trial of Theranos’ founder and former CEO Elizabeth Holmes in a U.S. court for fraud captured my attention. The
level of deception, hundreds of millions of dollars bilked and the number of people scammed is stunning.

You can learn many lessons from the trial, but one, in particular, stuck with me: Always call to verify.

Holmes claimed to have revolutionized blood testing, developing a technology designed to take one droplet of blood and, from it, screen patients for hundreds of diseases. A key selling point was the technology’s accessibility and convenience to the public at a low cost with rapid results.

The technology never worked, and eventually, time exposed the sham. The federal government prosecuted Holmes, and a jury found her guilty on four counts, including defrauding almost $1 billion from investors. Investors falling for the fraud included well known names such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch, former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Walmart’s Walton family, to name a few.

Early on, biopharmaceutical company Pfizer refused to invest in the company because it didn’t believe the technology worked. A massive red flag.

As one reporter covering the case drily noted, an investor needed only to call Pfizer and understand something was amiss. One call.

Why do I share this story with you? During the past few months, we have had numerous reports from members receiving phone calls from persons claiming to be Central Electric Cooperative employees. Typically, the scammer declares the member is behind on their electric bill. If they don’t make a payment via credit or debit card or wire transfer, their power will be disconnected within 15 minutes.

I appreciate the number of members who have called CEC to inform us they received such a call or verify if the call was legitimate.

For those members who may get these calls in the future: If an account is past due, CEC provides two written notices before calling the member to inform them their service could be disconnected. Once we make that call, we allow the member a full business day to make a payment arrangement.

Likewise, as interest in green energy alternatives evolves, so do misleading sales pitches for rooftop solar. Members have reported receiving calls or visitors representing solar companies that claim to be partners with Central Electric to offer incentives to install rooftop solar on their homes. Some members have sent us pictures of social media ads posted by solar companies implying CEC will pay you to go solar. These ads are an attempt to get the member to call their salesperson. CEC has no partnerships with any rooftop solar companies, nor do we endorse any specific company.

If you get such a call or a visitor at your door, it only takes one call to us to verify its legitimacy. We are here to help you avoid becoming a victim of a scam.