Alert: Increase in Utility-Related Phone Call Scams
The number of phone scammers posing as heating or electric companies increased 109% in 2016. The top five companies phone scammer claim affiliation with are General Electric, Duke Energy, ConEd, Georgia Power, and Consumers Energy.
When temperatures drop, scammers are able to lead consumers to believe they are representatives of heating companies to obtain personal information or take illicit payments. One of the common scams is to threaten to terminate utility services because of a missed payment. Victims who send payment through prepaid cards, wire transfers, or money orders are unable to trace their payment to the scammer.
If a consumer suspects a fraudulent call, authorities suggest hanging up and calling back the main service number of their energy or utility provider to confirm someone was trying to contact them. The main service number is usually printed on the utility bill or available online. Consumers who believe they are a victim, can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or their state’s attorney general office.
Consumers are less aware of utility scams compared to “free cruise” or other well-known telephone scams. A call from a utilities company is far more expected. Hiya, a spam protection service that picks up calls automatically and blocks numbers reported as telemarketers, robocalls, or scammers, reports victims have lost between $50-2500 each from utilities-related phone scammers.