Last Thursday marked the one-month anniversary of the Valentine’s Day deluge resulting in lava-like slides that melted our mountaintop.
Next Monday marks the eight-month anniversary since a psychotic man torched a mountainside, causing residents and tourists to flee for days, and damaging the lives of many people who lost their homes or property.
Lives unhinged — uprooted, rerouted. Continuous detours to get back and forth to school or work.
Important traveling routes keep getting shut down due to catastrophic events.
In the meantime, businesses suffering loss of sales, including ours, because of both these events within a year. An SBA loan does little to help businesses operating marginally in a small town when the money still has to be paid back.
Some businesses are just simply going to fail.
But, it seems that none of them need scammers to help move that along.
Last week, we received a call from a Jason, who identified himself as a project manager for Southern California Edison, that the Town Crier was behind on its bill and our power would be shut off at 3:45 p.m. that day.
Our bookkeeper returned the call to Jason who was able to provide her with our correct account number and amount we had last paid. SCE’s records showed that the amount, down to the last 3 cents, was allocated to the wrong account and they were unable to re-allocate the money. The money would be refunded.
But, in the meantime, we would need to pay again and credit cards would not be accepted as the payment took 12 to 24 hours to clear. What?
But then it got weirder: We would need to take out cash, drive to a CVS pharmacy and buy two green vouchers with that cash, paying $5.95 for each. Right. SCE was going to make us drive around the mountain to get to Hemet!
She spoke with three of his “supervisors” and all said the same thing.
I called SCE to check our account. It was current.
My bookkeeper came in with her cell phone. By now, it was 4 p.m. Jason called her on that phone. She handed it to me. He wanted to know if she was on the way with the payment. I asked him for the account number. He had that correct.
I asked him why no one had shut off the power yet. He said they had extended the cut-off because she was on her way with the money and the shut-off was done automatically at their end.
When I told him I had checked our account and it was current, the phone went dead before I could say another word.
We reported this to law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission. SCE has no department in which to report this and recommends a law enforcement report, despite the fact that these criminals had information about our account that SCE shouldn’t be sharing.
Several other businesses, we heard, were hit with this same scam on the same day.
These communities were proclaimed both a county and state disaster area. While government agencies are trying to reduce as much of the harm done to us because of these catastrophes as possible, some other psychotic people try to take advantage. As they say, there should be a special place in h--- for them.
Becky Clark, Editor