MOORE, Okla. - In Pastor Victor Cope's 41 years as a preacher, this was a first.
He and his church, First Indian Baptist Church of Moore, were targeted by scammers during a funeral service for one of their own church members.
“I was escorting the casket into the hearse,” he said. “One of my men came up to me [and said] ‘Brother Cope, they are calling again.’”
The first call came about 24 hours earlier as the church was preparing for the wake service.
Someone, pretending to be from OG&E, was demanding payment for an unpaid electric bill and threatening to shut off all of the power to the church.
Church treasurer, Marsha Jones, said all she could think about was keeping the lights on for the grieving family, plus she was grieving her own mother's passing just a week earlier.
“I thought ‘I know I filled out [the check] but, where it stopped me, I may have not mailed it because I was going through so much with my mom,” Jones said. “I may have not mailed it, so I probably do owe this.”
The thieves tricked Marsha into putting $500 cash on a pre-paid debit card.
Last month, they tried to do the same thing to the owner of a local barber shop.
OG&E spokesperson, Kathleen O'Shea, keeps getting the word out.
She said, while they might call a customer as a last ditch effort, they will never ask for payment over the phone.
“No one wants to hear their bill is delinquent and their electricity is going to be cut off,” she said. “So, they're playing on a fear, and you have to stop and think ‘Is my bill really delinquent?’”
In the face of struggle, the tiny congregation is instead choosing to focus on his good word.
“That's what we're here for, to forgive, and something will change in their life,” Jones said.
The scammers are targeting churches and businesses and pretty much anyone with an electric bill.
Hang up, and check your account online or call up your utility company to find out if your bill is actually delinquent.