Utility Bill Scammers Return to Target Businesses and Consumers

 

Scammers claim your utility bill is past due, and services will be terminated unless you pay up…

Scam artists are targeting businesses and consumers, telling them that their utility bill is delinquent and their services will be shut off, if payment isn’t made within 55 minutes of the phone call. If this scam sounds familiar, it is, as miscreants have been doing this, around this time of year, for the past 3 years.

The way the scam works is the scammers will call from a phony 866 or 800 number, claim they represent the local utility company, particularly power companies, and ask for the customer to verify some personal identifiable information, such as their name and address.

Once the information has been “verified”, the scammer then tells the utility customer that they need to pay their delinquent bill, typically with a Green Dot Money Card. Green Dot cards are disposable, prepaid credit cards, and are often bought at local convenience stores or drug stores. The hackers use these cards, because they are often thought to be untraceable, and the money is typically not recovered.

If someone claims to represent the utility company, it is important to take precautions and verify that the person is actually affiliated with the utility company, particularly if they are requesting immediate payment. Often times, the utility company will work with the customer to come to a payment agreement, in the event you are actually delinquent. Multiple payment options are almost always given to the customer, and they will never insist on a specific payment type.

If you get called by someone representing your utility company, and are being asked for personal information, simply hang up the phone. Never give out any credit card or banking information over the phone. If you are unsure about your account status, find the phone number to the utility company by going online, or looking at your last bill and call the company directly. Do not use the phone number provided by the scammer.

As with everything, you must use caution before disclosing any personally identifiable information. Err on the side of caution and prevent being the next victim in these utility bill scams. If you feel you have been a victim of one of these scams, file a complaint with the FTC, by visiting the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

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