Don’t let utility scams overpower you

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When your electricity goes out, you lose power in more ways than one. Daily necessities are out of reach without lights, warm water, and heat or air conditioning.

So if you get a call from someone threatening to shut off your utilities because they say you owe money, you’re going pay attention – and you may even pay up. But not so fast. The caller might be an imposter running a utility scam.

How can you tell? The caller wants you to send money – quickly, and in a very specific way. He may say the only way to make the “payment” is by wiring the money or using a prepaid card. That’s because scammers want your money quick, and they want to stay hidden. But once you wire money or use a prepaid card, your money is gone for good. 

Here are a few ways to protect yourself and your community:

  • Make sure you’re really dealing with your utility company. Call the company using the number on your bill. You can also check your bill to confirm what you owe.
  • Never wire money or send the number from a prepaid card to someone you don’t know — regardless of the situation. Once you do, you cannot get your money back.
  • Contact the company if you are falling behind on your utility bill. See if you can work out a payment plan to catch up and keep your service on. 
  • Pass on information about imposter scams to people you know – and keep in touch with the latest scams by signing up for the FTC’s scam alerts.
  • Report it to the FTC if you think a scammer has contacted you.

 

Comments

We keep getting notices to sign up for "insurance" in case we need utility repair on power lines to our home. For a small monthly fee it supposedly guarantees you are covered in case there are big expenses/repairs. Are these legit?

I signed up for the water heater one from Duke Energy. Prob had it 7 or 8 years at $5/month. When my water heater croaked, they sent a repairman and replaced it. I'm sure I paid for it over the years, but I wouldn't have had the money to do it all at once. I had to pay for things in my old water heater plumbing that were no longer up to code for him to install the new one. But I thought it was worth it.

If you Solar power on your home be careful on the power company that calls you offering a better deal than you can imagine. I only know of one that does net metering and they are really terrific people to deal with.

The utility company is responsible for the lines up to you meter.
This is a question that should be asked of your utility company, not on the internet.

Someone has hacked my Facebook account and my email address to get a straight talk phone in my name!! I recovered my email address but still haven't figured out how to get my Facebook account back, but I had a email about straight talk phone and I use AT&T!! How can I stop this kind of thing?!

If someone used your personal information to get a new phone, that's identity theft. Go to IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and get information about how to fix problems caused by identity theft.

I'm not sure if utility companies cold call their customers on a normal basis, but I would feel that they wouldn't unless you gave them permission to. Nevertheless, if they were really from that said utility company they were from, they would know all about your account instead of asking to give it to them. More importantly, if they ask for some prepaid money card, they are obviously fake. I feel that the only legit number is the one from your bill, and not from anywhere else, because that's their official number.

I working the why i not answer me cell phone i working 7 day .... that is why I tell you you guys send my money and my debit card i don't. Have time to go pick up my mony i sorry all u guys for u time sorry

This makes no sense, you must be a scammer

I have a real mess on my hands. I don't know if it's real or not by reading a lot of the stories and comments. I better check. I had a Home Depot account. I charged up a lot of things redoing my home in 2012-13 and I was using auto pay to make monthly payments. My husband and I split up. He had that account but used a different account for his things. Basically this old account just was used to make all the monthly payments we had to Home Depot, Verizon, time warner, capt one, lowes, Macy's, and house payments and insurance. Well then i guess my husband said he had to close account because of fraud. I guess a lot of paymentscwrte coming out. Some check bybphone things we never knew about with Home Depot. I called and reported it to Home Depot and got new cards I never used. Some one said they had a data breach . As far as I was concerned I paid my debt owed to Home Depot. I saw my credit report two months ago and tried to correct the mistakes online. It had several wrong spellings of my name and addresses were wrong. I went to one address with google maps and tit was an empty lot. My social had another additional social that was off by one number. And a Home Depot bill showing for 6,000. So I disputed it. And now last week I get a court doc served from a portfolio Recovery service they are suing me for 6,800 for old Home Depot bill. I feel so scammed and I don't want to ignore it if it's legit from court. I can't afford attorney. This feels like some scheme to break me financially because I got my bank statements for three years and in looking at them I've iunciveted massive amounts of money stolen from me. I don't know where to turn.

We wrote a blog post about debt collectors theatening people with  lawsuits, and what you can do about it. Please read Don’t recognize that debt? Here’s what to do.

One of the tips in the post tells consumers to refuse to discuss the debt until you get a “validation notice.” Collectors must send you a written notice. It tells you how much money you owe, the name of the creditor, and what to do if you don’t think you owe the money.

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