Customer loses $9,800 after paying electric bill
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - When the call came into Nashville Electric Service’s customer service line, it was pretty routine at first.
“Thanks for calling, this is Raven, who am I speaking with?” asked the representative.
“My mother’s NES check was intercepted,” the caller said. “We need to alert somebody that she’s experienced fraud.”
The caller was Paige, the daughter of a NES customer who had written a check for $204 for her monthly electric bill.
But somehow, that check had been altered, and ended up costing her mother $9,800. “(My mother was) completely beside herself. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Paige told WSMV4 Investigates.
Paige, who asked us to conceal her last name to protect her mother from future fraud, said her mother is so concerned about criminals hijacking her check that she doesn’t put her paid bills in her mailbox.
Instead, she places them in the mail bin outside the post office.
Still, her check was intercepted, and instead of the check being written to NES for $204, it was altered to be paid to someone by the name of Lumarys Torres for $9,800.
So when Paige called to alert NES to the fraud, she decided to ask a question on the spur of the moment.
“Is there a Lumarys Torres on your staff?” Paige can be heard saying in the recorded call. “Last name T-o-r-r-e-s”
The customer service representative replied, “I don’t have her direct line, but if you’d like her to give you a call back, and I can definitely put in a message over there.”
“Ok, but you do have a Lumarys Torres?” Paige asked.
“Yes,” the customer service representative confirmed.
“Interesting. Is Torres a supervisor?” Paige asked.
“Let me see if they have her title on here ... no, she’s not a supervisor. She’s just a consumer services rep. is what she said - or what the title says,” the representative said.
At that moment, Paige said she and her mother looked at each other in disbelief.
“My jaw is down on the floor. I can’t believe. I just got a new piece to this puzzle,” Paige said.
In the recorded call, Paige then asks for supervisor. “Apparently, this last check that she wrote was intercepted by one of your employees,” Paige tells the supervisor. “We know that employee works there. I need you to be aware that there is fraudulent activity. I’m not going to be able to tell you the person’s name because it’s being investigated.”
“No, I don’t want you to anyway,” the supervisor said.
That supervisor then clarified something: the customer service representative that Paige had first spoken to worked for a third party company called CRC.
“They’re not connected with NES, they just take our calls. I can’t vouch for the information that she gave you,” the supervisor said.
“People are doing (fraud),” Paige said.
“At our company?” the supervisor asked.
“That’s what happening, because that person is on my check, on this check,” Paid said.
“Oh,” the supervisor replied.
Paige also contacted police to alert the fraud as well as her mother’s bank, who refunded the $9,800.
WSMV4 repeatedly requested interviews with NES but were denied.
A spokesman for NES said there was no employee by the name of Lumarys Torres at NES or CRC, nor has there ever been.
A spokesperson replied in an email, “NES has not been notified of any intercepted mail. NES recognizes that this was an unfortunate interaction with the customer, and CRC has confirmed their employee was dishonest on the phone call with the customer. Their management team has apologized and are addressing the issue internally.”
Knowing how strange all this sounds, WSMV4 Investigates spoke with Metro Police Lt. Michael Warren, whose fraud unit is investigating the matter.
“Who’s to say they didn’t get a NES employee’s name to pass all of this stuff so it doesn’t lead back to them?” Warren said.
“The weird thing is that NES said that person didn’t work for them,” said WSMV4 Investigates.
“I’m not saying its absolute but these are some of the things we run into,” Warren said.
Warren went on to explain that they’re finding criminals obtaining the names of people whose identities have been stolen, and those names are used to create fake accounts in order to forge checks and deposit the money either with check cashing businesses or banks that use mobile deposit.
Warren’s investigator is still digging into the matter, so they don’t have all the answers yet.
But he knows what question you’re probably asking.
“Are we at the age now, lieutenant, where we shouldn’t write checks?” asked WSMV4 Investigates.
“I don’t write checks for anything,” Warren asked.
Warren spoke frankly about how easily thieves have steal checks that were written to pay bills and how to protect yourself.
Know of something you want WSMV4 Investigates to look into? You can email us here.
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