Scammer targets Pacific Science Center, City Light customers

SEATTLE - A scam artist tried to convince the accountants at the Pacific Science Center that they were behind on their electric bill. Turns out, the museum was just one of several customers that Seattle City Light reports is being targeted by a con man.

"A man contacted our accounting department, and he said we were delinquent in our utility bill," says Crystal Clarity, the director of marketing for the Pacific Science Center.

Clarity says the center's bill was not delinquent, and the man even provided a callback number for verification.

"We called it, and the man answered saying he was an employee of Seattle City Light," says Clarity. "He said that we owed $1,600 dollars, and that somebody was on there way down here to turn off power to the entire science center."

A spokesman for Seattle City Light says the utility received eight calls on Tuesday and a dozen calls on Wednesday, including one from the Pacific Science Center complaining about the scam calls.

"That's a pretty sharp spike, and those are just the ones we are hearing about," says Scott Thomsen, Sr. Strategic Advisor for Seattle City Light.

The scam of calling a customer and threatening to cut off power unless the customer sent money to an account is nothing new, but Thomsen says this time the con man is asking for payment with pre-paid debit cards, which makes it harder for a bank or credit card company to track.

"Anytime a customer hears that demand being made that should be a huge warning flag that there's something wrong," says Thomsen.

That's exactly what the scammer told the Pacific Science Center.

"He said you need to pay us in cash or a pre-paid debt card, and that's when we realized something is not right," says Clarity. The center never made any payment to the scammer.

"The lights never went off, they stayed on," says Clarity.

The Seattle Police Department is now investigating.