Pull the Plug on Utility Bill Collection Scams
Have you paid your utility bill? Chances are that you have but that isn’t stopping scammers from taking advantage of businesses and consumers by impersonating electric and gas company employees looking to deactivate for nonpayment. Utility companies across the nation are warning their customers of this scam. Scammers will impersonate utility company employees with threats of deactivation of service... unless they pay up immediately.
Victims report receiving calls where the person on the line identifies themselves as a representative from your local electric or gas company deactivation team. He or she tells you that you are late on your bill and you need to pay immediately, or your utilities will be shut off.
However, instead of accepting payment by credit card or check, the caller wants you to pay by using a prepaid debit card. The scammer instructs you to obtain one and call them back. This is a huge warning sign. Prepaid debit cards are like cash. Once you transfer the money, you will be unable to retrieve it
Prepaid debit cards are becoming an increasingly popular method of payment for scammers. Wire transfer services have tightened their security, so crooks have turned to these prepaid cards instead. The cards are difficult to trace, and you do not need photo identification to collect or spend the money. Be sure you treat a prepaid debit card like cash and remember that transactions cannot be reversed.
Scammers are also using other ways to prey on utility customers. Some will claim that the electric meter is not working properly and must be immediately replaced -- at the customer's expense -- or the electricity will be shut off. Other scammers are using email and door to door visits to reach customers. Watch out for emails disguised as overdue notices from your utility company. Clicking on a link or attachment will load malware onto your computer.
Tips for Spotting a Utility Scam:
Because local utility companies do sometimes contact their customers by phone, it can be difficult to tell a scammer from a real agent. Here are some tips:
There is never a shortage of ways for scam artists to try to separate you from your money but with a little knowledge and a few questions, you might just be the one that gets away.