How to Protect Yourself from Utility Imposters
There’s a hot, new scandal happening in the utility industry that you’re going to want to avoid. Customers across the country are reporting utility imposters who try to forcefully clean out their bank accounts. Dangling the threat of shutting off gas and electric if immediate payment is not received, these scammers are posing as legitimate utility companies, making it difficult for customers to tell the difference.
One particular scam involves convincing customers that their electricity is scheduled to be shut off unless they purchase a “Green Dot” Visa credit card over the phone. The callers claim to be legitimate utility workers, but rob the innocent customers once they provide their financial information.
Utilities such as San Diego Gas and Electric, National Grid, and Baltimore Gas and Electric have been issuing advice on how customers can protect themselves against these imposters. So unless you want to fork over a chunk of change to a complete stranger, we recommend reviewing the following tips:
If you receive a suspicious email from your utility…
- Do not click on any of the links.
- Do not open any attachments.
- Do not reply to the email.
- Delete the email as soon as possible and contact your utility’s customer service line directly.
If you receive a strange phone call from your utility…
- Ask for the person to recite your account number, the name on the account, and your address back to you. If he is unable to confirm your information, hang up and contact your utility’s customer service line.
- Never provide personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- In most cases, utilities will never contact their customers looking for credit card numbers, bank account numbers, or any other personal financial information over the phone.
If a stranger shows up to your house claiming he’s with your utility…
- Do not open the door for someone you do not recognize.
- Look for identification through the window, such as a company ID badge that displays the name, photo, and ID number of that person. Most employees will also be wearing a uniform and driving a company vehicle with its logo clearly displayed.
- Most utilities will never ask for payment at the time of service.
- Know that even if you are past-due on your bills, your utility will send you notifications in writing before services are cut off.
- If a real meter reader or service technician must enter your home, your utility will provide you with advanced notice of their arrival.
- If you experience suspicious activity at your home, notify the police as soon as possible.
It is important to demonstrate good judgment when dealing with your personal information. Scammers are always coming up with new ways to trick you, but if you remember these tips, you’ll be able to protect yourself and your family.
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