PHOENIX - People purchasing gift cards at a local Fry's grocery store is not all that unusual. But one customer's recent gift card request made two employees at the store near Elliot and Alma School roads think twice before making the sale.
"He appeared very confused and unsure of himself," customer service representative Lori said.
A man approached the customer service desk, and his request didn't seem right.
"He wanted a substantial amount of gift cards by a certain amount of time that he needed it," front end manager Stuart said.
The businessman, who also asked not to be identified, said someone claiming to be from SRP had contacted his retail business to say: "This is a courtesy notice to let you know that your power is going to be discontinued within the next two hours."
He told the Fry's employees that he was told by the unknown caller he'd be able to keep the power on if an outstanding balance was paid. The only catch: He had to do it with prepaid gift cards, and then ship them off to an address.
"It seems stupid, but you know, you're under the gun, because you think you're gonna be closed all weekend," the business owner said. This whole transaction unfolded on the Friday before the Labor Day weekend. The man could not afford to leave his business without power and closed.
He followed up the strange inquiry with a call to a number that produced another convincing SRP recording. Turns out, it was not what it seemed. The man had already made one gift card purchase and was about to make another large purchase at Fry's when Lori asked, "Can I ask you who they are? And he said, 'Yeah, SRP."
Lori went on to tell the man, SRP wouldn't ask him to send gift cards.
"You might want to check that out," she advised.
The two Fry's employees' instincts were right: It is a scam SRP is hearing about lately.
"We're never going to say, 'Pay now or you're going to be disconnected. Pay now, or you're going to be cut off,'" SRP spokesperson Kathleen Kathleen Mascareñas said.
She also said that SRP would never tell its customers to buy prepaid money cards or ask for account information or credit card information "out of the blue."
The business owner took Fry's advice and reconnected with a local SRP representative.
"(I) went back, reengaged with SRP, and found out that we'd been taken," he said. "But at least we were taken for only half of what we would have been taken for."
On Monday, SRP said "thank you" to the two Fry's employees for being extra alert and vigilant to their customers financial wellbeing.