The victim told sheriff's officials that he received a call at his business on Feb. 14, and the caller identification feature on his phone indicated that the call was from Southern California Edison.
The caller told the man his business owed SCE a $2,500 surcharge for recent equipment upgrades. The caller then told the victim that if he didn't pay immediately, the business' electricity would be shut off.
The victim then offered to make a payment via credit card. The caller declined, telling the victim he needed to go to a local retail store and purchase "Green Dot" prepaid money cards totalling $2,500. He continued to order the victim to call a specific number and provide the card codes after he had purchased them.
When the victim later called SCE to inquire about the matter, officials told him he had been scammed.
According to representatives, SCE is aware of the scam and emphasized that they do not contact customers for payment over the phone. They always send notices via mail.
Sheriff's investigators at the Palmdale station said they've received reports of several versions of this scam. In some cases, the scammers claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service, demanding payment of back taxes.
Others say they're from a utility, claiming the victim's recent payments were accidentally credited to a refund account and a refund check is being sent, but they say immediate payment is required via preloaded money cards to prevent service interruption.
Authorities warn citizens that criminals can easily disguise their caller identification information to reflect any entity and number they choose.
If you're unsure about the validity of a phone call, you should obtain the caller's information, hang up and use 411 to identify the business' legitimate number, and then call the business to confirm he legitimacy of the call.
Be wary of callers demanding payment via prepaid cards. Officials say such cases are very difficult to investigate and prosecute since the callers are often outside the country.