A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Utility imposter scam overheats victims — don’t be fooled, speak up and report it

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By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

Summertime weather may prompt fraudsters to make a round of calls to businesses and residents claiming to be with the utility company convincing them that their utility bills 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 if there is a billing issue that needs to be addressed before turning off the power and won’t call you for personal information. The only way this would happen is if you were to call them about a problem and they needed to verify who they were speaking to.

If there is a request for a prepaid card or gift card, this should be a red flag that the phone call is a scam.

Don’t Be Fooled With a Promise

Scammers will use other tricks such as posing as a utility company representative appearing at your doorstep in a plausible work uniform claiming that the electric meter is not working. They 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.

They may also promise energy discounts but only have the intention of taking your money, personal information or the account information to switch you over to another utility provider without your consent.

There shouldn’t be a plausible reason for anyone entering your home if you live an area that has a smart meter which can be checked monthly from the street by a utility employee using a remote meter reader.

Speak Up, Report it!

The safest response is hanging up the phone or closing the door, then contacting the utility company to make sure your account is in good standing, and reporting the scam to BBB’s Scam Tracker.

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach 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. Contact Sandra at (513) 639-9126 or sguile@cincinnati.bbb.org. 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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