Statewide— Duke Energy is warning its customers to be on guard against phone calls from scammers who are demanding that utility customers pay their electric bill immediately or risk having their electric service disconnected within the hour.Typically, the customer receives an unsolicited phone call—sometimes an automated call– from an individual who falsely claims to be a Duke Energy representative demanding immediate payment, usually in the form of a prepaid debit card. Scammers have even duplicated the Duke Energy upfront Interactive Voice Response system, so when customers call back phone numbers provided by the scammer, it sounds like a legitimate Duke Energy phone number. Some of these criminals also use caller-ID spoofing to replicate a utility’s customer service number.Red flags for scam activityThe caller becomes angry and tells the customer his or her account is past due, and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn’t made – usually within the hour.The caller instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to Duke Energy.The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.The customer has received no other notice from Duke Energy that an account is overdue.How to protect yourselfDuke Energy never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card – or iTunes card — to avoid disconnection.Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, or mail.Customers with delinquent accounts receive advance disconnection notification with the regular monthly billing – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.Customers who suspect or experience fraud or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, should contact local law enforcement authorities and then the Duke Energy Indiana phone number listed on their bill (800.521.2232). Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.Customers can get more scam and fraud prevention information at Duke Energy’s Fraud and Scams web page by clicking here.
Federal prosecutors ask that Tony Bland, former men’s basketball coach, face jail up to a year in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery in January, the Los Angeles Times reported. “He is the rare defendant who has given so much to others — when no one was watching, when he had no need to impress a judge deciding his fate,” Lichtman wrote. Lichtman pointed out Bland’s lack of a criminal record and the option of community service as reasons for probation, rather than prison. In a letter to Ramos, Bland’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman wrote that Bland’s “life filled with extraordinary good deeds” had been “marred by his criminal actions.” Bland admitted to accepting a $4,100 bribe in July 2017 which was offered by an undercover FBI agent pretending to be an investor. In exchange for the money, Bland agreed to direct USC players to a sports management company run by two men: Christian Dawkins and Munish Sood. Bland pled guilty after striking a deal with prosecutors. Bland is scheduled to be sentenced on May 29. Notably, three of the other men involved in the FBI investigation — Dawkins, former Adidas employee Merl Code, and Adidas employee Jim Gatto — were sentenced to between six and nine months each, although they were involved with much higher sums of money. In a memorandum to Judge Edgardo Ramos, who is in charge of the case, prosecutors wrote that Bland may have received a substantially larger amount of money in bribes if they had not stepped in. It also emphasized Bland’s self-interest in the crime, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Instead of being a role model for these students, the defendant’s conduct demonstrated a blatant disregard for not just the rules, but also his students’ own well-being, as he made efforts to steer them to Dawkins, an inexperienced and underqualified athlete-advisor with a track record of alleged fraud and partners who neither knew anything about,” the prosecutors wrote.