Phone scams have been around for years, and police say they are hard to investigate because scammers spoof their numbers. They almost always disconnect the line once the scam is exposed.
But police in Scarborough, Maine say they were stunned when a scammer not only answered their call, but admitted to illegal activity.
Dispatcher Artie Greene received a complaint from a local business, saying someone posing as Central Maine Power called to demand money. She passed along the number to police, and Greene decided to dial it.
"I was just as surprised as anyone that they picked up," Greene said. "I was equally as surprised at how cool and calm she was.”
In the audio recording, Greene identifies himself as Scarborough Police. He asks about her calls, telling her that’s not how CMP operates.
The person on the other line responds: “This is a scam.”
Greene then asks her to stop her calls, and she says, “We have a couple thousand we need to make today, we cannot stop.”
She then wishes him a Merry Christmas, and hangs up.
“As brazen as she was, it shows us they don’t have any fear of being caught,” said Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton. He said the department released the audio recording to get the word out about the scam.
“Hopefully if somebody gets one of these calls in the future, they’ll remember this story and realize that’s not the way this works,” said Chief Moulton.
Gail Rice, spokesperson for Central Maine Power, said she is “elated” that the audio recording has gone viral.
“We really wish these scam artists would just knock it off,” said Rice. “I hope this raises awareness to the point that these guys just stop what they’re doing.”
But when NECN called the number, the scammer was still posing as the CMP billing department. When we asked if it was a scam, they hung up.
Rice said there are several red flags in this particular scam. She said if CMP was truly going to disconnect a customer’s power, there would be several warnings, not an urgent phone call demanding money. She said this scammer is also asking people to pay them in pre-paid debit cards - a form of payment CMP does not accept.
If anyone receives a billing call and questions its legitimacy, Rice said the customer should call CMP or the police.
“We’re happy to set the record straight,” said Rice.