Utility Scams: Know the Signs
Scammers take advantage of consumers by threatening to turn off their electricity and demand payment over the phone. NEC DOES NOT demand payment over the phone. If you receive a threatening phone call, do not hesitate to call NEC Member Care and report the incident. In the past few weeks, utilities all across the U.S. have received calls from consumers reporting scam with an influx of scamming calls due to the holiday season. The holiday season is a perfect time for scammers to fraudulently take payment from consumers by taking their personal and financial information.
The scam is always the same story. A consumer receives a phone call from someone who said their payment had been denied, or never received, and demands immediate payment or they would shut off their power. There are three main utility scams:
- Scam #1 The Green Dot Card Scam: Scammers insist they need to pay their bill immediately or they will be disconnected. They tell them to purchase green dot money cards and call them with the verification codes.
- Scam #2 Phishing: Scammers insist they need to pay their bill immediately or they will be disconnected. They ask them to verify the credit card or bank account they used to pay their bill.
- Scam #3 Google Scam: a Google Calendar invitation pops up in your inbox, It claims to come from “Google Calendar” and has the subject line, “Your Electric bill is available.
Prepaid debit cards are a popular method of payment for scammers. Wire transfer services have tightened their security, so crooks have turned to these prepaid cards instead. The cards are difficult to trace, you do not need photo identification to collect or spend the money and transactions cannot be reversed.
If you receive a call or a visit from someone telling you your electric provider will disconnect your power unless you provide a debit or credit card or a personal financial account number, close the door or hang up and contact the electric provider the person claims to be with.
Tips for Spotting a Scam:
Because NEC does sometimes contact members by phone, it can be difficult to tell a scammer from a member representative. Here are some tips:
- If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card, this is a red flag.
- If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative.
- Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. Also, ask employees for proper identification.