Scammers target Hispanic community in Southern Arizona - Tucson News Now

Scammers target Hispanic community in Southern Arizona

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

We investigate a phone scam targeting the Hispanic community in Southern Arizona. Scammers are pretending to be Tucson Electric Power workers and telling people they need to pay up now or their power will be turned off.

It came as a shock to one Catalina woman. She needs electricity to take care of her ill husband. When that call came, she feared no lights or electricity would be devastating to her husband's health.

"I was frantic and I decided I was going to make the payment so I didn't have my lights cut off," said Maria Bonilla, a TEP customer.

Bonilla who only speaks Spanish describes the unsettling phone call she received Thursday. A scammer identifying himself as a worker with Tucson Electric Power trying to collect on back payments since August. But, Bonilla showed Tucson News Now the statement she paid $150 just last month.

"My light was going to be cut off for 7 days but if I paid them $200, my light would stay on during that time. I told them I did not have that money and he asked me to ask my neighbors if they had it," said Bonilla.

So, she got a hold of her neighbor, Pauline Tapia.

"I was just worried for her because she didn't want her electric turned off with her husband being sick," said Tapia.

Tapia tried talking to the man on the phone who only spoke Spanish. There were several red flags including he told them they could only pay in cash and he wanted them to meet at a Valero Gas Station near their home.

"I got my phone and called TEP. He talked to me and her and confirmed it was a scam," said Tapia.

Tucson News Now also checked with TEP who verified it was not them who called. Their next phone call was the sheriff's office. Pima County Sheriff's Spokesman Tracy Suit says they've been getting similar calls and each time Hispanic victims are targeted.

Bonilla is just happy she didn't fall for it. She can now continue taking care of her husband and her favorite pastime.

"If it doesn't seem right, it's probably not right," said Bonilla.

The sheriff's office has also released tips. Never give out personal information to an incoming caller. Contact the business (TEP, bank, etc) to see if they were trying to contact you. Report suspicious calls to law enforcement.

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