Federal Trade Commission

New Restaurant Owner Falls for Utility Scheme

One new restaurant owner barely got off the ground before she fell victim to a tricky scheme. It's a plot that could potentially hit anyone.

Mayra Aleman dreamed of opening her own Tex-Mex restaurant. But not so long after she opened, crooks took a bite out of her business.

Aleman only had her restaurant open for a few weeks when she got a call during the dinner rush to pay her electric bill.

"They said it was Stream Energy. (They said) 'just to let you know that you haven't paid the electricity bill. It's $608.' And they say you have you have 30 minutes to pay it," Aleman said.

Aleman said the callers had her name and account number. Aleman did what she was told and paid through a wire transfer. Soon after, she figured out she'd fallen victim to a scam.

"When I came back in and told my husband," said Aleman. "We said something was not right."

That's when she found out it was not Stream Energy who called her. She suspects the crooks are targeting Hispanic-owned businesses.

"It makes me more than angry – sad – because how can another Latino can do this to another Latino?" said Aleman.

Aleman didn't file a police report, because she said she has no hopes of getting her money back, but has this warning for others.

"There a lot of business owners that are probably in the same situation," said Aleman. "They can be aware of the situation and be careful."

NBC 5 Responds contacted Stream Energy which said there is no "pattern or history of this type of taking place at the company," and they say they've had "no uptick in complaints."

Be suspicious when anyone says you have to pay immediately. Another red flag is if they ask you to pay via wire transfer or in gift cards.

Here are more tips from the Federal Trade Commission.

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