1. Business

Tampa Electric warns of scam

Tampa Electric Co. customers are being warned to be vigilant as a scammer pretending to be affiliated with the utility continues to contact customers, threaten disconnection, and demand payment via a prepaid debit card.

Tampa Electric never calls to ask for credit card or debit card numbers, the utility said.

Between 10 and 15 customers are hearing from the scammer ever day. The ruse has been going on for five years.

It works like this: Someone falsely claiming to be a Tampa Electric representative contacts a customer from a phone number that appears to be affiliated with the utility. The caller claims the account is past due and instructs the customer to buy a prepaid debit card from a local drug store. The scammer demands they call back with the card's number to avoid disconnection.

When the customer calls back, the phone number is falsely answered as Tampa Electric, which adds to the scammer's credibility.

Customers have lost as much as $1,500 in the scam.

Anyone uncertain about an individual's association with the utility, or about a bill, can call (813) 223-0800 in Hillsborough County; (863) 299-0800 in Polk; and (888) 223-0800 in all other areas.