Knock, knock! It's your energy company, here with the bad news that your bill is overdue, so we're shutting off your electricity unless you pay up right now.
Sounds like a nightmare, right? Well, it's going to get worse: this is a scam. Pay the visitor at your door, and you've just paid a scammer.
It's happening a lot more lately. So here's what you need to know about these scams and how to keep the lights on without falling victim.
How the scam plays out
In a utility scam, a target receives a phone call, email, text message or even an in-person visit from an alleged representative of their gas, water or electric company. The "rep" claims to be collecting on a past due account thats pending shutoff unless payment is made immediately. They'll often ask for the payment to be made via wire or through a prepaid gift card. Unfortunately, any money paid will go directly to the scammer and not to the utility entity they claim to represent.
If you're targeted
If you believe you're being targeted by a utility scam, do not engage with the caller or visitor. If the alleged rep sent you an email or text message, mark it as spam, block the address and do not respond. You can also call the company the scamemer claimed to represent to confirm that your account is not pending shut off.
Watch out for these red flags which can help you avoid a utility scam:
- A demand for immediate payment with no prior warning. Authentic company reps will always give you ample warning, in writing, before enacting a shutoff
- You're pressured to act quickly. Scammers want you to act now and think later
- The "representative" cannot provide details about your account or a means to verify their identity
- They request a specific form of payment. Prepaid card requests are almost always a huge red flag in any scenario
To avoid utility and similar scams follow these precautionary measures:
- Never wire money or send a prepaid gift card to an unverified contact
- Keep the security on your devices at its strongest and updated settings
- Update your spam list often
- Never share your personally identifiable information with an unverified contact
Utility scams pose a real threat to your financial security. Follow these tips to stay safe.