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Sawnee EMC warns of scam targeting Forsyth County

FORSYTH COUNTY -- A local electric scam that has previously targeted Forsyth County residents is back again, according to spokespeople with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

Around 3:30 Friday afternoon, deputies started receiving calls from residents about calls they are reportedly receiving from someone claiming to be with Sawnee Electric Membership Corporation, a Cumming-based electric services provider, according to Deputy Doug Rainwater, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

On the phone, the scammer allegedly states that if a payment is not made today, power will be cut off to their home, Rainwater said. The last four digits on the phone number are 4254.

Rainwater said Sawnee EMC reported “the same thing in Jackson County a few days ago and Georgia Power also said a similar [scam] has taken place as recently as yesterday.”

“It’s obvious today they’re targeting Forsyth County residents, and likely because it’s supposed to get cold tonight and people don’t want their heat shut off,” Rainwater said.

Tonight’s temperature is expected to get close to 30 degrees.

Cindy Badgett, director of external affairs for Sawnee EMC, said customers have, in the past, reported receiving phone calls from someone who identified themselves as a Sawnee EMC employee. The caller reportedly tells customers their power bill is late and that they will be shutting services off in one hour.

The caller then allegedly tells customers they can keep their power on if they buy a prepaid Visa card, call back and pay their bill over the phone.

“We get these [reports] from time to time, but we definitely do not call and threaten people,” Badgett said, “and we definitely don’t ask them to go out and buy prepaid Visa cards.”

Badgett said while the company does give customers a courtesy call if a bill is late, it is long before any service is shut off.

“We just don’t operate that way,” she said. “If someone’s bill is late we will give them a courtesy call but we don’t call at the last minute and say ‘you have to pay this or we’ll shut you off.’ We certainly don’t want our members to feel threatened or harassed and if [they are,] that’s a red flag that it’s not us.

“If they want to pay their bill with a credit card, they don’t even speak with a customer representative.”

Cpl. Pete Sabella, also a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said residents should be wary of this scam as well as others.

“If you receive a phone call from a known company and the request does not seem accurate or legitimate, it probably isn’t,” he said. “Most companies don’t request payment via a prepaid credit or debit card.

“If there’s any question, hang up the phone and contact the company directly. And of course if you feel you’ve become a victim, contact the sheriff’s office and report it.”

Sawnee EMC sent out an email to its customers Friday, warning them of the scam.