The call was suspicious right away. A caller claiming to represent The United Illuminating Co. was telling a staff member at Hummel Bros. that the company\u2019s electric bill was past due. A UI technician, the caller claimed, would arrive within the hour to shut off service \u2014 unless Hummel loaded $1,000 onto a pre-paid credit card and made an immediate payment. It was more than 90 degrees out, and the New Haven food processing company had its coolers full of hot dogs, hams and other meats. A loss of power would have been a major problem. But Mary Ellen McMahon, the company\u2019s co-owner, was not taking the bait. \u201cWe knew it wasn\u2019t legitimate,\u201d McMahon said. \u201cWe had just received a statement, so we knew we had no outstanding balance.\u201d Instead of paying up, McMahon and her staff recorded the caller\u2019s number from caller ID and called UI, which confirmed no one was coming to shut off the electricity. Instead, UI\u2019s security staff took down the details of the incident to help with ongoing investigations into this type of criminal fraud. Similar attempts Unfortunately, not everyone has McMahon\u2019s presence of mind. UI and its parent company, UIL Holdings Corp., are aware of dozens of similar calls in recent months \u2014 many of them placed to food companies that stood to lose thousands of dollars of refrigerated inventory if they were to lose electric service. A few were successfully hectored into paying up. \u201cThese calls are often placed from temporary telephone numbers, so it\u2019s difficult to trace who\u2019s making the calls,\u201d said Wendy Ardizzone, UIL\u2019s manager of security services. \u201cMoreover, they often ask for payment using pre-paid credit cards, so it\u2019s difficult to trace the transactions, too. \u201cIn the case of Hummel\u2019s and some other customers, UI representatives were able to contact the company that provided the temporary phone number the scammer was using and shut down that particular number,\u201d Ardizzone said. \u201cMeanwhile, we advise all customers who call in to report these incidents to contact local law enforcement and file a report. We will work with local law enforcement as necessary to investigate these incidents.\u201d UIL urges customers of all of its companies \u2014 UI, The Southern Connecticut Gas Co., Connecticut Natural Gas Corp. and Berkshire Gas Co. \u2014 to be wary of unexpected collections calls from people claiming to be company representatives. Be aware Specifically, they should be suspicious if: \u2022 The caller claims the customer has an overdue payment, when the account is in fact paid in full. \u2022 The caller asks the customer to pay using a pre-paid credit card. \u2022 The caller discourages the recipient from making efforts to validate the collections effort, for example by calling the utility\u2019s main number. \u2022 The caller is unable to provide company credentials, or does not have access to customer information. If you suspect you are being scammed: \u2022 Check your caller ID and note the number you are being called from. \u2022 Get the caller\u2019s name and position with the company, and ask for a callback number. \u2022 Have the caller confirm your account number. (Your account number is on your bill.) \u2022 Never provide personal or account information to anyone you are not sure is legitimately representing the company. \u2022 Call the company to report the scam. If you have lost money in a scam, you should report it to your local police department as soon as possible.