Are you in the dark about utility scams?

When severe weather strikes, utility outages often are par for the course. Unfortunately, utility scams are becoming part of the drill, too.

Here’s how the scam works: Someone claiming to be with your local utility company comes around during an outage and offers to reconnect your service for a cash payment. Sure, you think it’s a bit odd that they’re asking for cash, but maybe the company’s power is out, too, and they can’t operate the computers to process payments. Besides, the person looks and sounds legitimate, and you really need your service turned on.

So you pay… and you wait. Hours later: no lights, no cable. No heat or water. What’s more, there’s no sign of the person whom you thought might have been the ray of light in your dark hours. Or, maybe your services come back on — but you see that your neighbors’ service is on, too. Eventually, the utility company restores the service, not the so-called “representative” who took your money.

Scam artists are adept at getting people at their most vulnerable moments. Here are a few tips that can help you avoid getting cheated by utility turn-on scams.

  • Don’t pay cash to anyone who comes to your home offering “turn-on” services without notice from the company.  Even if the person has a uniform or shows what they claim is an ID from the utility company, they  could be a con artist. Employees of legitimate utilities don’t ask for cash. Typically, a company will bill you for services if a charge is even applicable.
  • Most legitimate companies won’t send someone to your home to provide a service without advising you first.
  • If someone shows up at your house unexpectedly and claims to work for a utility, call the company and confirm that it authorized the person to visit your home.

Be sure to learn about other types of utility scams. And if you’ve been contacted by someone claiming to be able to turn on your service for a cash payment, file a complaint with the FTC and your state consumer protection agency.

Blog Topics: 
Homes & Mortgages

Comments

Other large corporations scam their customers too,apparantly under legal guise. e.g. ATT has slowed my data dowload speeds after 2GB of use. They explained they are allowed to do that to customers because we are grandfathered under previous plans. However, they would not adjust the fees to reflect lower service. I would have to upgrade and pay close to $100 more a month in order to have the sppeds I had a year ago. This is scam or robbery in my view - not too different to the scams you described in the notice.

Although the first comment seemed off-topic, the problem of decreased internet speed and "offers" by providers for higher speed plans at higher rates is on the rise. We are supposedly at the highest, non-business level but service continues to deteriorate daily, which is why we upgraded in the first place. We have Comcast/Xfinity, and I've also read this about ATT and Time-Warner, I think it was. These companies are HUGE but they shouldn't be allowed to get away with this. Plus, we're seeing more fees for previously included services, like charging for previous episodes from premium channels we've already paid to have.

ATT has done this to me. They are so horrible. Fraud. Robbery. I finally got out and switched. I'm going to send a letter to the corporate office. They are the worst company I've ever dealt with. Send a letter.

I've had the same thing happen to me.They are robbing us like this!!

I was getting really worried. Thought it was just me this was happening too. I very saddened by the fact that no one seems to have thought these practices would not cause harm to consumers as well as disruption to our communication systems.

yes i think i have trouble now from my phone...the google chrome is notbworking properly..i thin theres scammer in my phone..
tagged:scam

...scamers only ask to pay and never get paid.

anyone that falls for such a scam either has no common sense, or is naïve thinking that a utility would approach individuals that way. if the human race is that gullible they need to go back to school.

I worked for a Gas Utilities Company for 31 yrs, I know what happens when the lights go out?

Hello,well I don't open my door to anyone-I look out my window by the door to see who it is,I don't no YOU forget it,no company's send out people to collect money from anyone,and if someone asks me for money I can't give anyway-I'm poor.thank you cor this information.

Plz help me I am Muslim Pakistan but I no like I like your community and accept you why you accpect mr

I AGREE MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE GETTING SCAMMED ALL THE TIME WE NEED TO BE MORE AWARE IT ISN,T EASY.

My policy is to never buy anything at my front door (exception: kids raising money and I know the kid). When anyone comes to my door selling something even Jehovah Witnesses, before they get into any pitch, I ask them if they selling something repeatedly. They usually begin to stammer. Then I tell them, I'm glad you're here, I have some raffle tickets to sell you. If they say they don't carry money, I tell them neither do I.

In my old home in Virginia, an elderly lady from JW made it to my door about once every three months. She never asked for money, just wanted to leave a couple little religious pamphlets. I always accepted them and we wished each other well.

Get real... These people are harmless. My clue is they come with their Bibles not for handouts. They are not there to scam anyone. The Devil does enough of that for everyone, the Devil comes as scammers to your door, so yes, it is wise to be careful.

Our electric/gas (if u have gas) Co. hires people to actually do this and pay only with cash!!! And you have to pay $50-$125 extra because they "had" to come out. Due to health issues, I am forgetful, when 1 guy showed up demanding cash (I was very hesitant) and I said to the guy, "...oh I forgot to pay it yesterday, I'll hold online right now and sign in and pay it, with my saved payment acct. I always pay them with. The guy yelled and replied he didn't have time to wait, he had to have the cash in his hand in 3 secs or he was going to go turn my service off. Now they do thus to every customer who is anywhere from 1 say late to 32 days late! The payment does show up on acct. but miss that extra $75-$125! Which I know is the whole scam, either employed my the company itself or by the worker. I had it happen to me 3 times in the last 15yrs, and the 2nd time, the lady waited while I signed online to make sure she was right because I did pay it but I didn't have the receipt/confirm.number. Found confirmation number, she called it in, and it came back verified I did indeed make the payment, YET SHE STILL INSISTED ON THE $50 FEE, saying she had no choice. Had to turn in $50 times as many houses her hand held machine showed! If I had the guy on the 2nd time, he would not have let me prove he n would of charged me another $549 + !! $125 (his fee) Isn't this like extortion? ?

The scam aimed at me today. was a caller who identified himself as an employee of my power company, explaining that my account was in arrears and would be disconnected unless I wired money into my account within 30 minutes. If the disconnect went thru I would have to wait 24 hours for it to be turned back on and have to pay a reconnect fee. Being older I got upset and missed the warning signs I saw in hind sight. I was out the door, in my car, headed to the bank and asked myself a few questions, like why did he have to ask my last billing amount, why didn't he know I was on auto-pay, and why he didn't know I was on the equal-payment plan. I drove past the bank for 1/2 a mile and went into the power company instead. I asked for this guy by name, and they'd never heard of him. I told them about the scam and they had many calls already that day. Then the scammer called me, to see if I had the money yet. I told him I was in the lobby and could he come out so his co-workers could meet him. He started back pedaling and I got tired of calling him names and hung up.

heres one for you i get a phone call saying going to help me reduce my credit card dept the companys name is card holdere services in minneapolis,mn they call on my home phone and call on my cell phone and then ask for my card numbers i dont think so

I get scams on my cell phone. I almost believed someone, but the caller ID came from Jamacia. I told the scammer I was unable to complete his request. The scammer told me they would call me back in 5 mins. so I could rearrange my affairs to complete the transaction. This went on 2 times. the scammer did actually call me back. Also, I was able to call the scammer back from another phone and the so called scammer company answered. When I asked for Jake, they said one moment and connected me to Jake which seemed like the right person. Jake needed an address for delivery, even if it was a work address. Strange Jake didn't ask for money which made it seem legit. After giving the city clerk a call they suggested I give their address as delivery. So I waited for Jake to call again and as I gave the address there was a hesitation. Of course this was due to verification time.. Well, Jake asks if this is where I work. I said yes, you may deliver the free item any working hours....CLICK. I did try calling the: Fake Jake and there was no answer.

DDoor, I love your idea of giving scammers a work address. I'm retired, but scammers wouldn't likely know that. I have a new hobby of answering some of the scam calls for the sole purpose of reporting their info to the FTC. I think I should memorize the address to places like my police department and city hall. That could produce some strange results in the hands of a scammer.

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