Beware of Utility Company Scams

Utility Worker

Most of us are fairly certain we will never be the victim of any type of financial scam that involves giving out any information that would allow someone access to our money or assets. Think again! Some very intelligent, careful people—in fact, tens of thousands so far in 2019—have been duped by scammers out to make a quick buck in a sinister and illegal way.

There’s a new con artist in town who is not giving away free cruises, or timeshare property in Aruba, or trying to get you to sponsor a sick child in another country. Utility company scams are on the rise, and some of the criminals perpetrating these hoaxes are very, very good at what they do.

What Utility Company Scams Look and Sound Like

Men and women posing as utility company employees are targeting unsuspecting consumers as far east as Connecticut and as far west as Hawaii with very few states in between not having seen their fair share of these types of scams. Let’s take a look at some of the most common scams perpetrated in recent months.

Phone scams: Because of the easy access to consumers that computer-generated phone lists provide, scammers are using the phone as their number one tool to gain access to consumers. One common scam is for someone to pose as a utility company employee (such as the water company) and demand immediate payment over the phone to prevent your water service from being turned off.

No water company in the United States will call a customer out of the blue and say the water will be turned off immediately if payment is not received. Utility companies will send out one, two, or even three notices for every month a payment is late. Real utility companies including water, electric, gas, and sewer will always provided advanced disconnection notice, and they will never demand same-day payment.

Even though the number on your caller ID may look like a valid 1-800 or 1-888 number, don’t fall for it. Phone scammers use a tactic called “spoofing” allowing them to appear more like a legitimate business. If you receive a phone call insisting your service is going to be turned off, or even worse, someone shows up at your door claiming to be from your utility company, hang up or close your door (if you were brave enough to open it), and call the number on your utility company bill. If you don’t have the utility’s phone number, Google it. And if someone showed up at your door who you don’t trust, consider calling.

In-Person Scams: Some bold con artists will show up at your door. The best advice is to not open your door unless you have a scheduled appointment and that appointment has been confirmed by the utility company and yourself at least once. Just because someone may look official does not mean he or she is actually a utility company employee. Fraudsters go to great lengths to fit the role they’re playing, and being in “uniform” is something that helps them gain access to your home and your information.

Email Scams: Sending out spam email is another trick scammers use as they can send out thousands of emails and pray a few people take the bait. Beware of email that may even have a logo that closely resembles that of your real utility company. These guys are very good at coming across as the real deal, and to avoid becoming a victim of a scam, we encourage you to call your utility company if you receive an odd email demanding information or some type of payment.

One of the most common and most successful scams is to tell consumers that they’re owed a refund from a utility company that can only be processed if bank account information can be verified. Many people who swear they’d never be duped get excited about the prospect of a refund of several hundred dollars and willingly give out their banking account information. No actual utility company will ever call or email you to get your bank account information to issue a refund. A real utility company will either mail you a check with a letter of explanation or it will credit your account.

If you’ve been a victim of some type of financial fraud or identity theft, please contact an experienced attorney in your area who handles these difficult cases.

Lynn Fugaro About Lynn Fugaro

Lynn has been writing web content since 2007 after a lengthy career as a middle school English teacher and administrator. Writing web content seemed a natural progression following a career teaching adolescents about the beauty and the power of the written word, and she quickly got hooked on the challenge of writing SEO- and reader-friendly content that could be found on Page 1 of Google and other search engines.

Having written content for physicians and attorneys for the first few years of her writing career, Lynn has most recently produced original, informative, entertaining, and relevant content for the entertainment industry, the automotive industry, senior communities, pet rescues and numerous other businesses hoping to increase website traffic and page views for all clients looking for informative, vibrant content.