by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:
A Duluth locksmith said someone commandeered his shops' phone number and his customers.
Business owner, Ken Stewart, said he believes a thief contacted an internet phone company and that company agreed to transfer his number without due diligence.
"The phone's not ringing. Only the people that have my cell phone are calling me," Stewart said.
Stewart said for two days his customers thought they were calling Duluth Lock and Key. However, their calls were going somewhere else. He said he believed it was a call center in New York.
"Someone had hijacked our phone number," he told Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh.
Stewart said friends first told him someone else was answering his number. So, he called for himself.
"I asked them if it was Duluth Lock and Key and they said ‘Yes.’ And, I said ‘Well, can I speak to Ken?’ And, they said ‘There's no one here by that name,’” Stewart said.
He said the call center dispatched a locksmith from the imposter Duluth Lock and Key. Stewart said he thinks whoever stole his number has a big-time operation.
"I didn't even know it was possible," Stewart said.
He said it took him countless hours and countless calls to the phone company to straighten it out.
Stewart said he estimated the crime cost him at least $500 a day. But he's equally concerned for the customers who may have been charged five times the going rate by these imposters.
"Somebody would call my number it would send one of those guys out there," Stewart said.
Stewart said his number is now password protected. He recommends all small business owners do the same before they get locked out of their own line.
He is working with the Duluth Police Department and federal investigators to catch the suspects.