The operators of a Thai and Burmese restaurant in Niagara Falls were scammed out of $2,000 Saturday when a caller threatened to cut the electricity to their business over an allegedly unpaid utility bill.
Police said that the owner of the Mandalay Restaurant on Niagara Falls Boulevard received a telephone call around 11 a.m. originating from the 361 area code, which is located in Texas. The male caller told the victim that the restaurant was $1,970 behind on utility payments, and that their electricity would be shut off if the situation was not rectified. The owner was given another phone number, with an 877 area code usually reserved for toll-free lines, to call for further instructions.
Upon calling that number, the restaurateur was advised to purchase sufficient Green Dot Mastercards to cover the outstanding balance, and then call back. Already open for business and fearing the threatened loss of power, store personnel scrambled together the money and visited several area stores to purchase the necessary gift cards. In the interim, callers from the earlier numbers called the restaurant three more times to inquire about their progress in securing the cards.
A language barrier contributed to the confusion of the restaurant operators, police said. Finally, they were able to transfer the money from the cards to the callers, but later they received another call from the original number, this one from a man claiming to be investigating the scam to which they had just fallen victim. When restaurant personnel tried re-calling the numbers from the original calls, all were said to have been disconnected, police said.
An investigation into the incident is continuing.