Friday, March 7, 2014
Utility Scammers Are Busy
Winter weather can mean higher gas and electric bills, the perfect atmospheric conditions for an accumulation of scam attempts.
The most often reported utility scams involve fake phone calls to consumers. So-called “spoofing” software allows crooks to call you with falsely displayed readouts on your telephone’s Caller ID. The days are long gone when you can glance at those displays and feel confident that the name listed is truly the name of the caller or the caller’s business.
Taking a chance that they may actually be contacting a utility consumer who is slightly behind on their payments, the caller will claim that your back payment must be made immediately, or “within an hour.” Recipients of such calls can be caught off balance just enough to become panicky and quickly want to do whatever the scammer is telling them to do. This is always a mistake.
Or, they may claim that the meter is malfunctioning and must be replaced, at the homeowners's expense.
Wire transfer services have tightened their security and scammers have sought out other means of getting payments from their victims.
Though some are still asking for money to be wire-transferred, their new favorite request is that the victim send them payment in the form of a prepaid debit card. They will instruct you to go out and purchase one and then call them back.
Consider such a request to be a gigantic red flag that is warning of a scam attempt and hang up.
Remember these tips when you suspect a scam is underway:
• Utility companies accept checks and credit cards and do not demand prepaid debit card payments.
• Do not give in to pressure for immediate payment. Instead, hang up and call the utility company’s customer service number as listed on a bill you have received legitimately.
• Meters are the property of the utility company. You do not pay for replacement.
• Ask anyone wanting to check your home for identification before allowing them in your door.