Are you afraid the utility company will shut off your power or water supply? You remember making the full payment of utility bills, and yet you receive a call from the electric or water company.
…Well, maybe you don’t remember exactly. It’s possible you might think you paid it, but didn’t.
But it’s also possible a utility bill scammer is targeting you.
Let’s consider a situation in which a person pretending to be an electric company representative calls you. After picking up, you’re told that your account is past due, but they’re ready to give you last chance to pay them off.
You know you paid the bills last week. However, the scammer seems to be authentic, having your previous bill information and balance. This will all make sense until you are asked to make a payment ‘instantly’ otherwise your utility will be shut off.
Yes, the scammer will sound authentic. The situation will be legitimate, but authentic utility company does NOT ask for immediate payments.
A phone spam protection company known as Hiya reported utility-shut off scams jumped by 109% last year. The threat of shutting off the power, gas or water pressures seniors to question themselves and make instant payments.
If you receive a call like this, here’s what you should do to protect yourself:
- Contact your utility company: The first thing you should do after receiving such a call is contact your utility company directly. In the case of delinquent accounts, the company itself will provide numerous warnings before shutting off a utility. The moment a scammer threatens to cut off your power or water supply, you should hang up the phone. After that, check your phone book to see if the numbers of your utility company and the person who called you match or not. You can also check directly with the company if there are dues to be cleared.
- Do not make any payments: Whatever happens, you should not make any instant payment. Even if you are threatened or intimidated, NEVER wire transfer the payments–they often can’t be traced or recovered once the scammer receives it.
- Do not provide any confidential information: There is a possibility that the imposter might ask for your personal information such as your real name, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, bank account number or credit card details (bear in mind, the real utility company already has the information it needs to provide service and process payments). These scammers are masters of making up stories to gain access to such confidential information. If the caller starts asking personal questions, hang up the phone immediately.
It’s not easy to find out if you are scammed. Sometimes, the pressure and authenticity of the situation makes it difficult to identify the scammer.
However, if this happens, immediately report the scam to your local law enforcement agency.