Chico, calif.--In the past two weeks, about a dozen Chico businesses have received calls from people claiming to be from PG&E demanding a payment.
Maricela Campanero is the owner of Tacos Pepe on West Fifth Street and said you hear about these type of scams happen to people all the time. She never expected to be the next victim and wanted to share her story so that it doesn't happen to you.
During the lunch rush hour on Tuesday, Campanero received a call from someone telling her that their business' PG&E bill is pass due, and if they didn't pay within 40 minutes, their power would be shut off.
"The first thing I did was panic. You hear shut off, and I'm here thinking my business is going to go down, my produce, everything is going to go bad. I'm going to lose money, I can't afford that right now," said Campanero.
Concerned about her business, she immediately went to three different stores and picked up five pre-paid cards, each with $500 on them--totaling $2,500--because the caller told her that was the only form of payment they could accept.
She knew something was wrong when they called again the next day asking for another $1,500.
"I hung up the phone and I started thinking, why are they wanting if I already paid 25, why are they making me pay more money," said Campanero.
She immediately called PG&E and was told "we didn't even call you yesterday, we haven't gotten in contact with you, you're up to date with PG&E you don't owe us any money."
Just like that she learned she was the latest victim of this phone scam.
"Oh my god, I cannot believe I totally fell for this. You know, it was like something that I could've believe," she said.
PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said they work with their customers when it comes to billing.
"What we do is we mail out ahead of time notices to customers if they are running behind on their bills with at least 48 hours notice of that. We also don't demand payment over the phone and we don't accept pre-paid cards or pay-pal payments either," Moreno said.
Campanero said it's been a tough 15 months getting their business up and running, and even though they now lost $2,500, 'this is one of the experiences that you fall down, pick yourself back up, and you know keep on going."
Campanero said they have been working with Chico police to trace the call, but she was told that if the caller is from out of the state, there's nothing that they're able to do.