VINELAND — City police and Vineland Municipal Utilities officials are warning residents about a scam operation centered on faulty claims of overdue electric payments.

Residents and merchants are getting calls from people passing themselves off as working for VMU, which provides electric and water service to local homes and businesses.

Those getting the calls are told they are behind in their electric bill payments and their power will be shut off if payments are not made immediately, police said.

The callers are then told to make payments through a Green Dot pre-paid Money Pak debit card or credit card or via a bank account, VMU officials said. The scammers then remove the money from the victim’s bank account, pre-paid card and credit card, they said.

Police said the scammers are using a cloned telephone number so that the number that appears on the victims’ caller ID makes it seem like the call originated from VMU.

VMU officials are urging their customers to provide no banking information, or make no payments, over the phone. Utility payments are only accepted by mail, in person at City Hall or with a credit card via VMU’s Web portal, they said.

This is at least the second time this year VMU customers dealt with scam phone calls.

VMU officials said in March that at least 10 customers received the same kind of phone calls and that one residential customer and one commercial customer lost a “substantial amount of money” to the scammers.

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.