New twist in phone fraud: Scammers may now have your account details

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Phone fraudsters may now have your utility bill info (KTRK)

Scammers are taking aim at small businesses, and they are armed with new tricks, including detailed account information to aid their cons.

Harold Vetter at All American Eyeglass Repair said he got a call from scammers claiming to be from CenterPoint Energy. They sounded legitimate until they asked for payment.

"After offering credit cards, which I probably shouldn't have done that. No, they wanted a cash card, a Money Pak card," Vetter said.

He called the real CenterPoint and representatives told him that it's definitely a scam. His account was fine.

In recent days, scammers have targeted many businesses from auto shops, retail businesses and even a gun store.

RELATED: Fake CenterPoint reps threaten to cut off power, direct victims to automated operator

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TIME TO HANG UP: A new twist on an over-the-phone scam

"They had the account number, and that was very strange," said Leo Boutte, of Bailey's House of Guns.

Boutte got a call from a scammer claiming to be with Stream Energy who knew the business' account details.

"That's what's scary," Boutte recalled. "There's some way they can access business accounts, and they knew the exact account number. They knew the exact amount that would have been due."

Whether it's intercepting billing statements from the mail or a more high-tech method, access to this information makes the scammers sound much more legitimate.
The scammers asked Boutte's manager to bring cash to a drop off location and that was a red flag.

"I told him, 'Hey, look, we've contacted law enforcement officials and we know this is a scam'. And he said, 'Wait, wait, wait.' And he put me on hold, and then he hung up," Boutte said.

Many energy companies are cautioning about scammers. Entergy tweeted a warning saying scammers are working overtime right now.

"This was a really sophisticated new type with a new angle," Vetter said.

"Some people could actually fall for that," Boutte said.

The best advice for customer protection, if someone calls demanding money, just hang up, and call the number printed on a billing statement.

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