OKLAHOMA CITY - Santos Castillo knew something was up when he received a second call in less than an hour from a person asking if they could pay their electric bill at his gas station.
Castillo said his brother-in-law fielded the first phone call Saturday morning as he was doing paper work in the back office of his shop at 4200 N. Pennsylvania. Not much later, a woman walked into the store, while on the phone with an unknown man, asking if they had an OG&E pay kiosk.
"The lady came in and she says, 'Hey, this guy on the phone is telling me that you have a kiosk here to pay my bill.' I'm like, 'Ma'am, I’ve owned this place for a year and I can tell you that we don't have that," said Castillo. "She had the guy on speaker phone and he's telling her, 'Well, what do they have there?' And she says, 'ATM and a Bitcoin machine.' And he's like, 'You can pay your OG&E bill with Bitcoin,' and I kind of just back for a minute and was like, hold on."
Castillo said the woman, who said she owned a small business, got a call from OG&E saying her business' electricity would be cut off if she didn't pay the $700 outstanding over the phone and the woman was in the process of accessing the cryptocurrency ATM.
"I went around the register and was like, 'Put your phone on mute,' and I ask her, 'Who are you speaking with?' And I was like, 'Oh, you need to hang up your phone ASAP, because they're scammers,'" said Castillo. "'What you need to do, is you need to call OG&E yourself and find out if you actually owe a bill, because I can tell you right now, paying it on the Bitcoin is not going to do it.'"
Castillo said the woman then checked her electric account online and saw that she had a zero balance. About an hour later, Castillo's gas station, S&P Quik Stop, got a second phone call.
"She's like, 'I'm on my way there. Do you have a bill pay there?'" Castillo said the woman told him, who owns a daycare. "I tell her to hold on and I was like, 'Did OG&E call you?' She says yeah. And I say, 'That's a scam.'"
OG&E confirming to News 4 Saturday it has been notified of a renewed scam targeting people in the metro, telling them to go to specific locations to pay their outstanding bills, sometimes in Bitcoin. You cannot pay your utility bill in Bitcoin. But the electric utility not the only company that serves the metro on high alert. Oklahoma Natural Gas also says its received reports of business customers who claim they received a call from ONG's customer service number, demanding payment over the phone.
"His business received a phone call saying, 'This is the gas company. You owe us money. If you don’t pay right now, over the phone, we're going to come out and cut off your gas,'" said ONG spokesperson Cherokee Ballard. "When it showed up as Oklahoma Natural Gas, they thought it was legitimate. But we're here to tell you we don't do it that way. We do not call people and threaten. We do not say, 'You pay us over the phone, or we'll cut your gas off."
Ballard says the company is looking into the matter.