Beware of the Utility Scam – It’s Not Your Utility Company

by | Aug 7, 2017

It’s summertime and the heat can be unbearable. You find comfort in coming home to a nice cool home. Who would have ever thought that scammers are now using your utility bill to get into your wallet with a “utility scam”. The heat is on! Hiya, a phone scam protection company, reported that “utility scams soared 109 percent last year.”

Many of us are aware scams are moving through the United States like a wild fire but would you think that you’d have to double check when receiving calls from General Electric or Duke Energy? Well, now you do! Scammers are pretending to be utility companies, even yours!

In a recent CBS article, Jan Volzke, vice president at Hiya, shares, “Scammers are constantly looking for new ways to defraud consumers…While many consumers now know to be wary of calls claiming to be from the IRS or offering a free cruise, the latest threat comes disguised in the form of the utility companies that we trust to provide our basic services, like gas and electricity.”

So now that you know that you can’t trust calls from your utility company, what should you specifically be looking for? CBS highlights three ways utility scammers target people:

  1. Thieves will say they can help cut your electric bill. Sounds tempting, right? Well for those who want to hear more, the scammer will simply ask for account and billing information so that they can review your account.  By getting this information, they then have the information they need to steal your identity.
  2. Thieves will say your payment is past due and you must act now! You receive a phone call warning you that your power is going to be shut off unless you make a payment that moment. They’ll attempt to get a payment sent to a MoneyGram or a prepaid card. If a payment isn’t successful, they’ll try to get your personal information.  Either way, they are trying to get your money or your personal information to steal your identity.
  3. Thieves will try to make you believe you may be eligible for lower electric rates from a federal program. They’ll simply just need your account information.  Once provided this information, you won’t get lower electric bills, but the scammers will have your identity.

Now, what should you do to avoid getting scammed? Be informed and alert. If you receive a call or something asking you to “act fast,” this is a RED FLAG. Scammers typically try to create a sense of urgency to make consumers act fast, without thinking.  Remember, your utility company will not contact you via telephone to demand immediate payment through a pre-paid card.  Your utility company will notify you in writing that it is going to disconnect your utilities.  And, your utility will not call you demanding personal information.

While scammers target all consumers, some areas are more impacted than others.  Where are the most impacted areas?  Do you live in Los Angeles, Boston or Cleveland? You could be more likely to be a target against utility scams. Hiya.com has found the top ten zip codes that are affected by utility scammers. Need more information of impacted areas? You can find the list here: https://hiya.com/blog/2017/02/01/utility-scams-affecting-the-nation/.