A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Utility imposter scam overheats victims — beware and report to scamtracker.org

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

The hot summertime weather may come with a rash of fraudsters.

These seasonal scam artists make rounds of calls to businesses and residents, claiming to be with the utility company calling to collect bills that are past due.

The caller threatens victims that if the bill isn’t paid right away with a prepaid debit or gift card, the power will shut off within the hour.

Just the Facts

This simply isn’t true.

Utility companies typically provide plenty of notice by mail before turning off the power when billing issues occur, and they won’t call you for personal information. The only legitimate request for personal data would happen if you were to call your utility company about a problem, and the representative on the other line needed to verify who they were speaking to.

Any mention of prepaid cards or gift cards is an immediate red flag that the phone call is a scam.

Don’t Be Fooled With a Promise 

Scammers will use other tricks to pull off a utility company con. One example is a person appearing at your doorstep posing as a representative (even in uniform) and claiming that your electric meter is not working. The person may be pushy or rude, insisting on gaining access to your home to perform repairs or an energy audit with the intent of stealing personal information or valuables.

In some cases, the actor may claim the utility company you’re receiving services from is out of business; of course, their offer to switch you to another utility provider requires collecting your money and personal information. 

Keep in mind that if you live in an area that has a smart meter, these can usually be checked monthly from the street by a utility employee using a remote meter reader; in these instances, there really isn’t a plausible reason for anyone to be entering your home.

Speak Up, Report it!

The safest response is to hang up the phone or close the door, then contact the utility company to make sure your account is in good standing. Once you do, report the scam to scamtracker.org.

Sandra Guile is the Public Relations Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call 513-421-3015.

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