FORT LAWN, S.C. -- Hugh and Clydeanne Mauldin run the Harmony Hills Nursery in Chester County. Both retired, it's the way they get money to pay the bills.
Back in October, Clydeanne noticed a strange and overdue account had been added onto their Duke Energy bill.
"I called and she said it was for a restaurant in Lancaster called The Patio," explained Clydeanne, "I don't have anything to do with any restaurants, let alone The Patio."
Lancaster County Sheriff's deputies confirmed Hugh Mauldin's nephew owned the now-closed restaurant.
"Apparently this young man stole my husband's social security number and opened the account," she explained. The Mauldins sent the police case report numbers to Duke Energy to confirm the identity theft.
"But the notices kept coming. I asked her 'why, since he did it without our permission with a stolen social security number, they were still making us pay?' She said because he was related to us we're responsible for the charges and account--even though we were the victims of identity theft," said Clydeanne.
The Mauldins claim they don't have the money to pay the more than $1700 owed by the fraudulent account. Duke Energy continued to send disconnection notices, stating if they didn't pay by 5 P.M. Tuesday, power to the greenhouses would be cut.
"The plants will all die if we don't have power to heat the greenhouses in the cold," explained Hugh.
NBC Charlotte contacted Duke Energy about the Mauldin's situation. After hearing the story, the company investigated.
Paige Layne, with Duke Energy media relations, admitted they "dropped the ball" with the Mauldin's account. She said the confusion occurred because the Mauldins' contacted police before filing a fraud complaint with Duke, so the fraud packet was never sent to the customer.
Layne explained since there was no paperwork indicating the Mauldins were victims of fraud, the computer did not flag the account. She added Duke Energy does not have a policy holding customers responsible for a family member if they open fraudulent accounts, but it does investigate every claim, independent of police investigations.
She speculated the customer service representatives assumed that was the reason the company had not taken action to erase the charges.
After speaking with NBC Charlotte, Duke Energy put a stop on the disconnection and began taking the proper steps to erase the fraudulent charges on the Mauldin's account.
"I shouldn't have to pay for Duke Energy's mistake. They shouldn't let people open accounts over the phone without checking to make sure they are who they say they are," said Hugh.