"Phony Utility Bill" Scam Heats Up Washington, Attorney General Warns

The Office of the Washington Attorney General is warning Washington residents to look out for phony utility bills in their inboxes. Read on for more.
February 26, 2014

A new email phishing scam making the rounds nationwide has hit Washington state, and this one is disguised as a utility bill, the Washington Attorney General's Office stated Wednesday.

Washington consumers have reported receiving emails that appear to be statements from a legitimate utility company, notifying the recipient that their bill is "due upon receipt" or "past due."

The email message provides a link to "view your most recent bill," but clicking on the link will instead prompt the download of malware, which will infect your computer. Malware is software used to disrupt computer operation and gather sensitive information.

According to the Attorney General's consumer experts, these fraudulent messages are just another variation of the common phishing scams — emails that look like they originate from a legitimate company, but are actually designed to obtain personal information or direct you to a website that downloads malware.

Below is an example of one such email:
An example of an emailed phony utility bill. The message includes a link that takes the recipient to a fraudulent website, putting them at risk of identity theft or something similar.

While phishing scams come in many different forms, the defense is always the same: Delete these emails and do not click on any links in them or open any attachments.

The Attorney General's Office offers the following tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who emails or calls you.
  • Hover over the reply address or links in the message (without clicking) to see if it includes your utility providers' company and domain name.
  • If you are concerned about the notice or the status of your account, contact your utility company directly for assistance, using a number you know to be legitimate.

For additional internet safety tips, advice and information from the Attorney General, visit http://www.atg.wa.gov/InternetSafety.aspx.  To contact the Better Business Bureau in your area, log on to www.bbb.org.