CEO’s Message – May 2022

Beware of Scams; Call WREC

Headshot of Clay FitchThe recent trial of Theranos’ founder and former CEO Elizabeth Holmes in a U.S. court for fraud captured my attention. The level of deception, hundreds of millions of dollars bilked and the number of people scammed is stunning.

You can learn many lessons from the trial, but one, in particular, stuck with me: Always call to verify.

Holmes claimed to have revolutionized blood testing, developing a technology designed to take one droplet of blood and, from it, screen patients for hundreds of diseases. A key selling point was the technology’s accessibility and convenience to the public at a low cost with rapid results.

The technology never worked. Eventually, time exposed the sham.

The federal government prosecuted Holmes, and a jury found her guilty on four counts, including defrauding almost $1 billion from investors. Investors falling for the fraud included well-known names such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch, former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Walmart’s Walton family.

Early on, biopharmaceutical company Pfizer refused to invest in the company because it didn’t believe the technology worked. That was a massive red flag.

As one reporter covering the case dryly noted, an investor needed only to call Pfizer to understand something was amiss. Just one call.

Why do I share this story with you? During the past few months, we have had reports from members receiving phone calls or texts from persons claiming to be Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) employees. Typically, the scammer declares the member is behind on their electric bill. If they don’t make a payment via credit, debit card or wire transfer, their power will be disconnected within 15 minutes.

I appreciate the number of members who have called WREC to inform us they received such a call or to verify if the call or text was legitimate.

For members who may get such calls or texts in the future, know that if an account is past due, WREC always provides two written notices. Members with delinquent accounts first receive a “friendly reminder” followed by a past-due balance shown on the next bill. If the account remains past due, you receive an automated call asking you to contact your local office. Once we make that call, we allow the member a full business day to make a payment.

Likewise, as interest in green energy alternatives evolves, so do misleading sales pitches for rooftop solar. Members have reported receiving calls representing solar companies that claim to be partners with your electric company and offering incentives to install rooftop solar on their homes. I’ve even received ads on social media posted by solar companies implying WREC will pay you to go solar.

These ads are an attempt to get the member to call their salesperson. While we have members who have connected solar systems under our net-metering policy, WREC doesn’t currently have a partnership with any rooftop solar company, nor do we endorse any specific company.

If you get such a call or a visitor at your door, it only takes one call to your local office to verify its legitimacy. We are here to help you avoid becoming a victim of a scam.

Clay R. Fitch, CEO