LUTHER, Okla. (KFOR) – It’s a terrifying phone call for any small business. Now, a local bed and breakfast is putting out a warning, after fearing they may lose their power.
Angel’s Way Guest Ranch, just outside Luther, has long been a haven for those looking to escape.
“Angel’s Way Guest Ranch is a place of great spirit, is the best way to call it,” said Phyllis Dragus. “I’ve had guests over a 25-year period.”
Angel’s Way is led by Phyllis, who’s mission is to make the ranch more than a quick getaway.
She also uses it as a shelter for grieving families of fallen law enforcement, after her son, Jonathan Dragus, was killed in a traffic accident 17 years ago.
“I use this as a free retreat for police officers’ families where the officers were killed in the line of duty,” she explained. “I just figured who better to work with people that are grieving than someone that has grieved?”
The ranch is a well-oiled machine these days. But receiving a call like what Phyllis received last week can be concerning for any business.
“This gentleman said your electric service is going to be cut off in the next 30 minutes and you need to pay your past balance,” Phyllis said. “Of course, I kind of went into a panic mode.”
Angel’s Way’s energy comes from the Central Rural Electric Cooperative (CREC).
With guests scheduled to come to ranch, and big events to be hosted in the coming days, Phyllis’ ‘scam sense’ was overridden by her need to keep the business afloat.
“I totally believed him. My purse was sitting there, and I got my purse and start pulling out all my debit cards,” she said. “I thought, what is going on?”
Thankfully Swen Nordling, who helps maintain the ranch, was nearby as the phone call continued.
“I get on the phone with him – I said, if I want to pay this, I’m going to pay this through your app. [The scammer] says, ‘Well, we don’t do that through the app anymore,'” Swen noted. “I go, you’re a scam.”
The two called CREC, who confirmed they weren’t behind the calls.
This utility fraud makes up a large chunk of what’s called “imposter scams.” The FTC reported a jump in imposter scams last year, with more than $2-billion lost.
Phyllis tells News 4, at least one of her accounts was briefly compromised, but all has been fixed since.
She and Swen, though, want to warn others, knowing they can’t be the only ones targeted.
CREC responded to our inquiry with a statement, letting customers know to always be suspicious of someone demanding payment.
They also advise customers to never provide credit card or bank account info over the phone.
Read the full statement below from Jillianne Tebow, vice president of business development and marketing:
“Central Rural Electric Cooperative encourages members to be suspicious of someone demanding payment. Never provide a credit card or bank account information over the phone if you feel uneasy. Instead, hang up and call Central at 405-372-2884. Central members can also use the SmartHub app link on our website to log in and view their account.”Jillianne Tebow