WATERVILLE — A man posing as a Kennebec Water District employee has been calling businesses and saying if they do not make a payment for service by credit card over the phone, their service will be disconnected within the hour.

It’s a scam and people should not fall for it, said Jeff LaCasse, the district’s general manager, who said Wednesday four businesses had contacted him about the calls.

“They seem to be focusing on businesses at this time and they are calling after our office is closed, so no one is able to call here and verify what’s going on,” LaCasse said.

He said the caller tells the customer a recent payment was reversed by the bank and if it’s not paid right then by credit card, the district will disconnect water service.

LaCasse notified both Waterville police and the state attorney general’s office about the scam.

The calls are being made after 4:30 p.m., when the district office closes. LaCasse thinks the intent is to reach people who are not business managers and might be more likely to fall for it.

College Quik Stop on West River Road got one of the calls Tuesday night.

The caller, a man, told the employee who answered the phone that the water would be shut off in two hours if the store did not pay a bill by credit card. The employee told the caller she had to check with her boss and promptly called the store manager, Erik Hart, at home.

Hart said Wednesday he suspected something was up, as he always pays the bills on time.

“I came in, called Kennebec Water District and let them know,” he said. “Then I Googled the number of the man who called and it was a cellphone from Portland.” Hart said the man had a thick accent that sounded Middle Eastern.

Hart said the man identified himself as “Kennebec Water District.”

“I said, ‘No you’re not — I just got off the phone with them,” he said. “I believe this is a scam and I think I’ll report this to the police.’ I hung up on him and then I called Waterville PD and let them know. They directed me to the attorney general’s office in Augusta, and I left a message there.”

Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey, of the Waterville police, said Wednesday that when people get calls asking for credit card information over the phone, they should never give it; and in a case like this, they should check with the business the caller claims to work for.

“Don’t take it at face value,” he said. “Get a callback number, do the research and on the next business day call Kennebec Water District.”

People engaging in such scams typically live out of state or out of the country and are able to hide their location and identity, according to Rumsey.

“You can’t be too careful,” he said.

Some of the calls are being made to places the water district doesn’t even cover, such as China, according to LaCasse.

He said the district never calls people and asks them to pay by credit card, although some people do make payments by credit card. Sometimes the district will call customers to let them know that a disconnect is happening in their area or their bill is due.

He urged anyone receiving a possibly suspicious call to phone the district at 872-2763.

“We’re only open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We don’t do anything outside of those business hours, so if they get a call at night, it’s not us,” he said.

The district has never been used in such a scam before, he said, but it is linked to other utility companies around the country, so it was just a matter of time.

“Right now, they’re focusing on calling businesses,” he said. “So far, they haven’t hit residential customers, and that’s kind of what we’re worried about. Many people get taken in by these scams, and we don’t want that to happen.”

He said customers can call the district office to pay by credit card, or pay through the district’s website, kennebecwater.org.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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