FIGHT UTILITY SCAMS:

THE POWER IS YOURS

 

Nationwide, there has been a noticeable increase in the reported number of utility scams. Scammers are tricking consumers into giving away their money or personal information.

We’re spreading the word about utility scams and how to protect yourself, your family and your community.

Download Utility Scams Fact Sheet (pdf)

Below are some common utility scams and solutions.

SPOOFING

THE SCAM:

Scammers often use a tactic called “spoofing” where the name and number displayed on your caller ID disguises their identity.

Click the audio player below to listen to an example of a spoofing attempt.

Audio transcript:

Please listen to this message in its entirety.

There is currently a motion being filed to suspend all bank accounts and tax returns bearing your name and social security number.

To review immediate rights and details, and avoid all further proceedings, please contact our firm at 1-844-898-XXXX*, or you may press “one” to be transferred to your case manager immediately.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Ignore calls you do not recognize on your caller ID.
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, social security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other personally identifiable information.
  • Contact your telephone provider about call blocking services or devices for your landline. You can also register your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce unwanted calls.
Utility Bill Icon

DISCONNECTION THREAT

THE SCAM:

Scammers will call or show up unexpectedly at your home to disconnect your utility service unless a payment is made immediately.  Scammers may also show up at a small business during a busy time threatening disconnection.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Call your utility directly at the number listed on your bill to verify a disconnection.
  • If you’re behind in payments, utilities will provide a shut-off or disconnection date in advance.
  • Utilities will never ask you for cash, credit or debit card payments in-person, even if there is a fee to reconnect your service.
  • If you are behind on your bill, call the utility company to arrange a payment plan to avoid being disconnected.

“GREEN DOT” SCAM

THE SCAM:

Scammers  call claiming that you are behind on your account.  To avoid service disconnection, customers are asked to purchase a pre-paid debit card, such as a Green Dot MoneyPak card.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Utilities will never ask you to make a payment using a Green Dot MoneyPak card.
  • Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.
  • Avoid websites requesting payment by Green Dot MoneyPak card.

OVERPAYMENT TRICK

THE SCAM:

Scammers call claiming you have overpaid your utility bill and request your personal information so that you can get a refund.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Ask the person calling to provide their employee identification and information related to your account such as the date and amount of your most recent payment.
  • Never give out your account numbers, social security numbers or credit or debit card numbers over the phone or in person.

LEAK DECEPTION

THE SCAM:

Scammers posing as utility workers unexpectedly come to your house.

They will inform you that there is a major gas or water leak in the area, and they need to enter your home to inspect your utility lines.

They may be dressed as utility workers and even present fake identification or other credentials to persuade you that they work for a utility company.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Do not permit unknown individuals into your home.
  • Ask to see their employee identification through a window, then call your utility to verify the person is an employee of the company.
  • Utilities will let you know ahead of time if they need to do work in your home or neighborhood.
  • Call your utility when an individual claiming to be from the utility shows up to your house without prior notification or appointment.

EQUIPMENT OR REPAIR FEES

THE SCAM:

Scammers call to request a separate payment to replace or install a utility-related device, such as a meter.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Utilities do not collect a separate payment for equipment or installation.
  • Call your utility directly to verify the need for a replacement or repair.
  • Never give out your account numbers, social security card, or credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

PHISHING WITH FAKE BILLS

THE SCAM:

Spammers go “phishing” by emailing fake bills to you. The bill appears to be from your utility company to get you to respond with your personal or financial information.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Do not click on any links or attachments in any email unless you have verified the sender. If you are uncertain about the email, delete it.
  • If you receive an unsolicited email asking for account verification,call the utility’s customer service telephone number listed on your bill—not the one from the questionable email.
  • Navigate directly to the utility’s website to access your account. Do not click the link in the email.
  • Check the security of the website by hovering over the email address or website address to see if the links show a legitimate address. For websites, make sure it has a “https” url address. This means that the site is secure.

ONE RING SCAM

THE SCAM:

Scammers call, usually late at night then abruptly hang up. Those who call back are connected to a number that charges for the call by the minute. It’s also known as a “Wangiri” scam, Japanese for one-ring-and-cut.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Do not call back any unfamiliar numbers.
  • Do not answer “Yes.” Scammers will record your reply to authorize fraudulent charges via telephone on your utility or credit card account.
  • Always check your telephone bill for any unusual charges especially international charges.
  • If you have unusual charges on your telephone bill, contact the Federal Communications Commission.

SMSishing or TEXTING SCAM

THE SCAM:

Scammers are now contacting consumers through cell phone texts and SMS messages.

Similar to a “phishing”, a SMSishing scam attempts to trick mobile phone users into downloading malware that gives scammers access to personal information and steal your identity.

You might get a message saying your account has been comprised, and the security department wants you to text back your information or call their number to verify your information.

Scammers are hoping you’ll respond to clear up the “error”.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Delete the text from unknown telephone numbers. Do not respond, even if the message says you can text “STOP” to end messages.
  • Open and reply only to text messages from someone you know.
  • Call your telephone provider directly to report the number.
  • Do not send personal or financial information by text.

CONSUMER ASSISTANCE SCAMS

THE SCAM:

Scammers promise to help you reduce your utility bills, offering a lower rate via federal or state programs. They try to get you to “sign up” for assistance programs, then obtain your personal and financial information.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Never make a decision on the spot. Ask for information in writing and read it carefully. Take time to understand the program and compare prices and contact the utility companies directly.
  • Never give out your account numbers, passwords, or credit or debit card numbers.
  • Contact your utility or local utility regulator to directly to find out about federal or state programs to determine whether the program is legitimate or not.