Scammers attempted to coerce a La Cañada Flintridge optometrist’s office into sending money their way this week.
Different callers rang La Cañada Eye Care on Tuesday and claimed falsely to be Southern California Edison, stating that the business was delinquent in paying its electric bill and that the power would be cut off shortly.
“They did it with a certain amount of force, with pressure, with a timed [deadline],” said Dr. Tony Chahine. “And, oh, the irony of it all.”
Chahine’s office is solar powered.
He said his staff members who answered the calls immediately were suspicious. The first call came at about noon, and the caller indicated there was a 40-minute deadline before power would be cut off if the bill wasn’t paid. Another call came at about 4 p.m., Chahine said, and this time a 30-minute deadline was imposed.
To make the payment, the caller directed Chahine’s office staff to call (800) 519-7909, ext. 1000. An automated answer indicated that “you have reached the billing and disconnect department,” Chahine said. Entering the extension resulted in a request for information.
Chahine said he called SCE’s customer service number to report the calls. Representatives there informed him that the callers were in no way connected with SCE and that the utility is aware of that particular scam occurring in the area.
In an email to local businesses, Pat Anderson, president of the LCF Chamber of Commerce, advised those receiving such a call to never negotiate or agree with anyone calling if you are not expecting a call or if you don’t recognize the issue. She also suggested contacting the alleged source — SCE, in this case — directly to verify the veracity of the call.
“It was an odd phone call to get,” Chahine said. “The whole thing was absurd.”