Hang up on aggressive callers from the ‘electric utility’

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

 

Consumer Action is warning consumers about calls from scammers who claim to be representatives of the utility company. The scammers spoof utility company telephone numbers so the caller ID makes it appear to be a call from the utility company. Callers say power bills are overdue and threaten to shut off the electricity unless an immediate payment is made. Another twist the scammers use is to falsely claim that a meter was installed, which requires immediate payment or else the power gets shut off. These callers are aggressive, calling repeatedly and demanding immediate payment.

The scammers may demand a credit card number immediately over the phone, ask you to call a special number with payment information or instruct you to buy a prepaid credit card and give them the account number. Do not engage such callers or provide any payment information. Instead, hang up quickly and contact your electric provider. Never give personal and/or financial information to strangers or people who call you.

This prepaid card and gift card trick is being used across the country to scam people. When you purchase a prepaid card or a gift card and do not have an opportunity to register the card, it’s just like cash. If you give someone the card number, they can withdraw your money and run off with it. It’s unlikely that you will get your money back. Such funds are usually not recoverable by law enforcement or banking officials, either.

Any questions or concerns about your electric bill should be directed to your electricity company, using the phone number or website listed on your bill or in the phone book. If you can’t pay your electric bill, you may be able to work out a payment plan.  If you have limited household funds, you might qualify for the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). For more information or to apply, contact your state LIHEAP agency or call 866-674-6327.

Consumers who believe they are victims of this fraud should contact the local police department, utility company, credit card or prepaid card company and the state attorney general. Click here to find your attorney general’s contact information. Some prepaid card issuers, such as Green Dot, say that if you notify them of the loss or theft before all prepaid funds are gone they will freeze the account stopping scammers from stealing the remaining balance on the card.

Consumer Action offers many free multilingual publications on how to protect yourself from frauds and scams. Click here to view our online collection.

 
 
 

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