WSVN — They are called con artists because they can trick good, honest people out of their money. There are many con men in South Florida going after people who get their electricity from Florida Power and Light. What is their scam? Here’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser. 

Some people come to work and can’t wait to leave. Natalia Pyrig comes to work and can’t wait to get to work.

Natalia Pyrig: "I love it, it’s my passion. Even my husband says my job is my hobby."

Natalia owns Miami Gymnastics and Dance Academy in North Miami Beach.

Natalia Pyrig: "It’s a lot to keep up, yeah."

Then, recently, Natalia got a call from someone claiming to be a Florida Power and Light representative.

Natalia Pyrig: "Our business needs to have the smart meter. They said it will bring your electricity bill down and that every business in the area is obligated to have it."

The caller said Natalia needed to pay $500 for the new meter, plus about a $1,000 for that month’s electric bill. Natalia said she believed the caller because they knew everything about her account.

Natalia Pyrig: "They knew, they knew it was $995.77 or something, the exact amount. They knew our account number. They knew our address. They knew everything. They knew all of our information."

Natalia then gave who she thought was an FPL representative her credit card information.

Natalia Pyrig: "And they said the card did not go through, which was surprising. There was no reason for it not to go through. You would be better just to go to CVS or Walgreens and buy this prepaid card and pay with this."

When Natalia hesitated, the caller threw out the threat.

Natalia Pyrig: "If you don’t pay it then, in one hour, they will disconnect our power."

Natalia couldn’t leave her kids in the dark, so she bought the pre-paid cards and paid the money over the phone.

Then, a few days later, Natalia went online and discovered her power bill had not been paid. When she called the real FPL, she was told she had been scammed.

Natalia Pyrig: "Upset, frustrated. I was ready to cry."

But she told FPL they should pay part of the money she lost since the crook got her private information from their system.

Natalia Pyrig: "And FPL and I’m really shocked that FPL does not take any responsibility for this. Someone defiantly broke into their system."

Well, Howard, is she out luck?

Howard Finkelstein: "Probably, yes. If a crook somehow gets your confidential information, and the company doesn’t know about it, they are not responsible for your loss. However, if the company knew they had been hacked or an employee handed out information, and they did nothing, then they could be responsible for the money a scammer steals from you."

We contacted FPL. An official told us their records have not been hacked, that they have safety measures in place to prevent this and have no idea how someone could know Natalia’s account information.

Clearly though, someone got her information.

Howard Finkelstein: "Scammers are constantly changing their tactics, but there are common red flags to alert you. If they won’t accept a credit card and only want cash or a pre-paid card, it’s probably a scam. If they tell you to hurry, that’s a red flag. The thing to do, don’t call the number they give you. Look up the company’s number yourself and then call them."

Natalia lost $1,500 and would love it if she was the last person scammed by someone pretending to be with FPL.

Natalia Pyrig: "Then, I did some research, and I saw I’m not the only one. I saw, unfortunately, that many businesses are suffering from this. I think this is why I wanted to bring this to the people, to be careful not to do the same mistake, not to trust anybody."

The scammers are so common, FPL has details on their web site showing how to protect yourself and warning signs to help avoid being conned by a crook claiming to be with the power company.

And the scammers who got Natalia have disconnected their number, so you know they are still out there with a new number, so be careful.

A crook trying to con you? Ready to take charge? Contact us. We don’t have a gun and a badge to arrest them, but hopefully we can pull the plug on them and power them down.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.


Florida Power and Light

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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