Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) is alerting residents of unsolicited calls from scammers claiming to be from their local utilities company.
In this con, scammers impersonate customer service agents and threaten residents and business owners with deactivation of service if they don’t pay up immediately. Some scammers have even been known to spoof the caller ID to look like they are calling from the utility company.
“We tend to see a spike in this scam during the winter months when people are most likely to need their heat,” said Alyssa Gutierrez, Director of Communications for BBB of Eastern NC. “Consumers need to be aware that this happening in our area and know the steps to take to determine a scam from a real interaction with a utility company.”
How the Scam Works:
Utility company impostors will typically reach you with a telephone call or knock on your door claiming to be a representative from the local water, electric, or gas company. In the most common scenario, the scammer informs you that payment is overdue and the utility will be shut off if you don’t pay up immediately.
Scammers use a variety of other tricks to prey on utility customers. A “representative” may appear at your door in a plausible work uniform claiming that the electric meter is not working properly and must be immediately replaced— at your expense. In a particularly alarming form of this con, the scammer may gain access to your home to perform “repairs” or an “energy audit” with the intent of stealing your valuables.
These cons may also involve promises of energy discounts with the aim of taking your money, personal information, or possibly the account details needed to switch you to another utility provider without your consent (an illegal practice known as “slamming”).
Tips to Spot This Scam:
Prepaid debit cards and wire transfers are a red flag. If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card, wire transfer or any other hard-to-trace method this is a huge warning sign.
Pressure to pay immediately. Scammers will press for immediate payment and may try to intimidate you into giving them your personal and banking information.
Protect Yourself Against This Scam:
Call customer service. If you feel pressured or you feel like you may be dealing with an impersonator, hang up the phone and call your utility company directly.
Never allow anyone into your home unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification before letting them enter.