The call goes something like this: “Give me a credit card number immediately to settle your overdue bill or we’ll have to cut off your electricity.”
And if you say you paid your bill? The response: “Your mailed check was unsigned and a credit card payment must be made immediately.”
The caller, of course, is a scam artist posing as a representative of the local power company. The goal is to get your credit card number for a shopping spree—or worse, to set you up for identity theft. The scammers usually also ask for your utility account number or personal information, saying they need it for verification purposes.
Rocky Mountain Power in Utah is one of the utilities in several states that have been affected by this scam recently. “These calls are in no way associated with our company, and we want to make sure our customers are aware that anything that seems unusual is just that—unusual,” said company spokesperson Karen Gilmore in a press release.
Other targeted companies are Duke Energy in North Carolina and several water and sewer providers, including at least three in South Carolina.
No matter who your service providers are, here’s what you need to know:
- Most utilities will mail one, if not several, past-due notices before terminating service.
- If a legitimate company rep calls, he or she will always have your account information on a computer screen. It’s possible you’ll be asked for an account number, so that the caller can confirm you’re the person with authority over the account. If this happens, provide just part of the number, such as the last four digits, and then ask the rep for the rest of the number. Scammers will usually hang up at this point.
- You have the option not to engage with the caller. Instead, dial the customer service number listed on your bill and ask if there’s an issue with your account.
Sid Kirchheimer is author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.