City offers warning on utility scam

FAIRMONT — Just one day after Christmas, some area businesses had the unfortunate task of dealing with some unscrupulous individuals who raised their heads in an attempt to harass and defraud.

According to a Fairmont City Hall notification, several local businesses received calls from an alleged energy company stating it was working on behalf of the city. The callers then demanded payment in order to prevent utilities from being disconnected on Wednesday.

Fairmont Director of Public Works Troy Nemmers was able to comment on the unfortunate situation.

“I don’t know a ton, but there’s a couple of businesses in town that were called,” he said. “They were told that their payments were past due, and they needed to go wire some money to an account. They [the callers] referenced the city’s utility bills, and they even used one of the city’s employee’s names.”

According to the alert from the city, it is important to note that the city does not conduct business this way, nor would it have a third party act on its behalf. As previously noted, the fraudulent company made reference to prior utility bill amounts, the current bill due, business mailing addresses and even mentioned City Hall employees to contact to discuss the account, after making the demanded payment. Fortunately, Nemmers said the calls appear to be limited in their scope, so far, and the Fairmont Police Department is on the case.

“I’ve heard of three or four that were called,” he said. “We’ve been in touch with our IT people as well as the utility billing people that we work with. The police department is investigating it as well to see if they can track anything down.”

“At this point it seems to be relatively limited,” Nemmers continued. “But we’re doing some checking on our end to make sure there’s nothing else, that no other data’s been compromised. We don’t know if this is through the city’s accounts or if this is through some outside route through business accounts or emails; we haven’t pinpointed anything at this time.”

According to Fairmont Police Chief Mike Hunter, the scam is under investigation, but there is a bit of good news.

“As of this time, we have nobody that’s reported any monetary loss as a result,” he said. “But we are following up on that. It was an interesting one, because with City Hall being closed on Tuesday a lot of people couldn’t call up and confirm with them.

“We always suggest that if people have any questions or are unsure about who they’re dealing with, call us, we’re open seven days a week and we can certainly take a look at it and see where things are at,” Hunter said. “The sad thing is that, especially this time of year, there are so many different scams around.”

The City Hall alert apologized for the inconvenience, and warns people not to issue any payments this way, and to contact the police department at (507) 238-4481. For any questions concerning utility bills, people may contact City Hall at (507) 238-9461.