ONLY ON 13: Barber delivers warning after losing money in scam

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Barber delivers warning after losing money to threatening caller, Steven Romo reports. (KTRK)

A locally-owned barbershop is warning other small businesses after claiming it was scammed out of a couple hundred dollars from a group posing as an electric company.

James Ardoin is a co-owner of Head-Quarter Barbershop on S. Gessner. He said he got a call Wednesday from someone claiming to work for Reliant Energy.

"They represent themselves as Reliant Energy. A guy named Joshua," he said.

Ardoin said the caller warned they had 90 minutes to pay at least $200 or else the electricity would be turned off. The barbershop had customers on the way so Ardoin didn't want to take chances. He made the payment using a MoneyPak Green Dot card.

The caller allegedly told Ardoin the charges were not for the monthly bill but rather charges for new meters.

"The couple hundred (dollars), that was just half of it. They wanted more," he said.

ABC13 reporter Steven Romo called the number that contacted the shop. The person who answered identified himself as Joshua but now said he worked for CenterPoint, another energy provider. When asked about Ardoin's claims, Joshua unleashed a profanity-laced tirade before disconnecting the call.

Representatives from both CenterPoint and Reliant confirm the phone number in question does not belong to their companies and they said it has been reported as potentially fraudulent.

The companies said the Green Dot card can also be a red flag, because they never require payments with that method. Company representatives also said if a customer has any doubt about who they're speaking with, they should hang up and call the customer service number listed on their monthly billing statement.

Ardoin said he's accepted that he's out the $200 but he hopes by sharing his story he can prevent other small businesses from falling victim.

"Businesses, just be conscious of the calls," he said. "Know who you're talking to."
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