Crown Candy foils spreading scam

ST. LOUIS - They're targeting your bakery, favorite restaurant, maybe your coffee shop. Small businesses are under siege by criminals trying to swindle them out of money.

It's a nationwide scam that's showing up in St. Louis and it's even reached a local institution.

Andy Karandzieff is busy mixing, pouring and chilling his Christmas confections at Crown Candy Kitchen.

"I'll probably pour 1,500, maybe 2,000," said Karandzieff.

So between his Santa, snowman, and angel creations, Andy can't afford for his time to be corrupted by a con, but that's just what happened last Friday.

"I got a call from a gentleman who was clearly reading from a script saying that he was calling from Ameren and he was telling me that my power would be shut off by the end of the day unless I made a payment to them," he said.

But Crown Candy Andy wasn't concerned his dark chocolates would end up in the dark. He recognized a ruse and ran with it.

"So, I basically told him well why don't you come down here about nine o'clock tonight and I'll meet you out on the corner and I'll just pay you in cash," said Andy.

The guy on the line didn't go for it and Andy hung up. He knew it was coming because a couple of hours earlier more than the aroma of fresh coffee wafted from La Mancha Coffeehouse across the street.

Owner Veronica Holden had spread the word of her call.

"You need to pay us, your power's going to be turned off today, and just kept repeating that rather than answering my questions," recalled Holden.

Veronica didn't bite either, but Ameren says a few have.

"Five to 10 customers," said Michael Moehn with Ameren Missouri.

It's a small number now for this scam popping up around the country. Small businesses are often the target, with calls, usually at a busy time.

"They have one hour to go get a pre-paid card and bring it back to avoid disconnection," said Moehn about the scam.

Moehn says the power company is cooperating with authorities and spreading the word using notices on its website and telephone system and letters to local small businesses.

"We're going to send out about 90,000 letters just to be very proactive about this," said Moehn. "We want to be aggressive. It's an unfortunate situation that we have someone trying to take hard earned money from our customers."

And although Andy may be surrounded by sweets, a face to face with the guy on the other end of the line would not have been so sweet.

"I hope they never do show up because I'm not sure how I'd react to somebody like that, you know," he said with a smile.


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