Be on the Lookout for Utility Scams
As YOUR financial champion, we want to help you keep your funds safe and secure. Several industry resources are reporting a recent uptick in scammers calling, emailing, and/or texting individuals claiming to be from their utility company – even spoofing the phone number of real utility companies so the calls/texts appear to be legitimate. The scammer states they did not receive payment for a utility bill then threatens to turn off service immediately if they do not receive payment.
Members should know that a call or text from your gas, electric, or water company threatening to immediately turn off your service is a most likely a scam. Utility companies do not engage in this practice. The scammers will ask you to pay by wiring money through a company like Western Union or MoneyGram, giving the caller the numbers of a reloadable card or gift card, or paying them with cryptocurrency or P2P apps like Zelle. Scammers tell you to pay this way because it’s hard to track that money, and almost impossible to get it back.
Faced with urgency of service disconnection from utility companies (e.g., electricity, water, etc.), the individuals agree to make the payment, before thinking of the potential ramifications. In some cases, the fraudster’s even have Spanish speaking “utility employees” to assist with those who do not speak English.
Here’s information from the Federal Trade Commission on how to avoid these scams, what to do if you paid a scammer, and how to report them.
How To Avoid Utility Scams
- Hang up and call the utility company yourself. Call the company using the number on your bill or the utility company’s website even if the person who contacted you left a call-back number. Often, those call-back numbers are fake. If the message came by text, don’t respond, and do the same. If your bill says you owe anything, pay it as you normally would, not as the caller says.
- Never wire money or pay with a reloadable card, gift card, P2P, or cryptocurrency to anyone who demands it. Only scammers will require one of those kinds of payment. Your utility company won’t ask you to pay that way. Once you send the money, you probably won’t get it back.
What To Do If You Paid a Scammer
- Scammers often ask you to pay in ways that make it tough to get your money back. No matter how you paid a scammer, the sooner you act, the better. Learn more about how to get your money back.
Report Utility Scams
If you got a call from or were contacted by a fake utility company, report the scam to your utility company online or by calling a number you know is real report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
And be sure to let other people know about this scam. Then they can avoid it, too.