National Utility Scam Awareness Day is Nov. 15
Con artists are everywhere, and too often they prey on unsuspecting consumers. Sometimes they even seem to know a consumer’s account number or how much the person typically pays each month. The caller sounds so legitimate, but in reality the call is a scam.
These types of scams have surfaced across America over the last several years, robbing people of millions.
Electric cooperatives like South Central Indiana Rural Electric Membership Corporation (SCI REMC) and other utilities are fighting back. Last year, Utilities United Against Scams was formed and became a national effort uniting more than 100 electric, gas and water utilities and associations, to combat utility scams.
“SCI REMC has been increasing our communications to members to raise awareness of these frauds,” said Maura Giles, SCI REMC manager of cooperative relations. “In recognition of National Utility Scam Awareness Day on Nov. 15, we want you to be aware of several recent scams targeted especially at electric consumers.”
The con artist calls members from an 800 number that looks like a valid utility company. In reality, spoofing software allows the crooks to display what appears to be an official number on the caller ID.
“In every case, the scammer wants to convince you that your service will be shut off if you don’t pay immediately with untraceable cash such as a prepaid debit card,” she said. Worse, some scammers try to con you into giving your account number and bank information over the phone. Don’t be fooled. “Hang up instead,” Giles advised.
Know that SCI REMC [and most utilities] will NEVER call you to threaten to shut off service. If you are in danger of service disconnection, you will receive written notice of issues, or you can check your account status through your secure online account. “Better yet, come into our office, and we will work with you on any concerns you have about your bill,” said Giles.
Call your SCI REMC using the number listed on your bill. “We are here to help you,” she said.
- Never show your utility bill to anyone who comes to your door.
- Do not assume the name and number on your caller ID are legitimate. Caller IDs can be spoofed.
- Don’t allow any unauthorized person or caller to “review” your account and billing information under the guise of needing this information to lower your bill. Call us first instead. Only our trained energy advisors can provide authentic verification of who they are you and who they represent.
- Never give your personal information, account number or Social Security number to anyone offering a reduced rate due to a federal program. There is no such thing. This is an identity theft scam. While official energy assistance benefits do exist, consumers have to seek them out; they will not call you. Check this government website to find out more: https://www.benefits.gov.
- Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
- Do not click links or call numbers in unexpected emails or texts – especially those asking for your account information.
- Most utilities will NOT require their customers to purchase prepaid debit cards or money orders to avoid an immediate disconnection.
- If you receive a call that sounds like it may be a scam, or if you believe the call is a scam, hang up, call the police, and contact the Federal Trade Commission or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
When in doubt, call your utility first. SCI REMC is happy to provide you with the information you need to manage your energy costs. Get more info on utility scams at www.sciremc.com/scams.
You can help raise awareness, too. Warn others about these scams and post on social media using the hashtag #stopscams. Together, we can help others from falling victim to these thieves.
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