Bay Area residents falling victim to scammers claiming to be from PG&E; here's how the scam works

CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- An old scam is targeting new victims in the Bay Area. Law enforcement agencies say Bay Area residents are being threatened with a shutoff of their electricity unless they pay money. We first reported about this scam four years ago, now it's rearing up again.

Lynellen Watson of Concord was sure she paid her PG&E bill. Still, the phone call scared her.

"A fella told me he was from PG&E and they were gonna turn off my electric service and remove the meter from my house in 45 minutes," said Watson.

The man told her she owed PG&E $500. A technician was waiting nearby to take her meter.

"I said no don't turn off my service, don't take my meter!," Watson recalled.

The man on the phone said she could avoid a shutoff if she paid right away.

"They wouldn't accept a check or cash. I had to buy MoneyPak cards to pay for it."

He transferred Watson to a woman who scared her even more.

"She said if she took the meter, it would take up to three weeks to get it back. How can you live in December without heat or light for three weeks? So I really panicked," said Watson.

RELATED: PG&E's power shutoff causes a spike in consumer's Comcast bill

Watson raced to Rite-Aid, bought a $500 MoneyPak card, and read the serial numbers to the woman on the phone. However, that wasn't good enough.

"She says, that didn't go through, there's a problem. And she says not only that, you owe more money than I told you," explained Watson.

The woman said she actually owed $7,000.

"And you'll have to pay that before we can keep the service going, and I really panicked," Watson said.

Watson said there was no way she owed that much. The woman said she'd investigate but for now, Watson had to pay.

So Watson withdrew $7,000 from her bank account. A girlfriend drove her to Rite-Aid, then Walgreens, then 7-11 to buy more MoneyPak cards.

"I was glad she was driving me 'cause I was a wreck; I was shaky and nervous and upset," described Watson.

She called the woman back and read off all the MoneyPak serial numbers. But the woman said those didn't work either and she actually owed $10,000.

"I told them, look, I have no more money, you've gotten everything I've got," said Watson.

Watson hung up and contacted 7 On Your Side: could we help her deal with PG&E?

RELATED: 7 On Your Side: Woman warns of PG&E scammer asking for back payments on bills

"I thought they've got something screwed up in their records," she said.

We told her this was not PG&E at all.

It was a scam.

"I felt awful. I was sick. I was a wreck," Watson said.

Her money was gone.

Or was it? We quickly contacted MoneyPak. Could it stop those payments?

Thankfully -- MoneyPak did manage to intercept $1,000 before it got to the scammers --returning it to Watson.

"I appreciate it very, very much. Me being stupid enough to fall for this was enough, I didn't want it to happen to anyone else," said Watson.

Watson says the scammers had personal information about her that made it seem real. She says she hopes telling her story will stop others from falling for the same scam.



Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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