We’ve all gotten notifications of dips and increases in our utility bills when the seasons change, but getting a personal call from a utility company of overdue bills that we’re unaware of, that’s a definite notification most of us don’t expect.
The call may go a little something like this:
A scam that has been targeting utility customers for years, has most recently seen a 151.64% uptick since January in the U.S. and Canada.
Threatening to cut services within hours if payments are not made immediately, promising savings on electrical bills that obviously can’t be kept, and asking for payment with pre-paid debit or gift cards are all red flags that you’re being targeted by the utility scam.
Utilities United Against Scams Day
To fight back and raise awareness, over 80 gas, water and electric companies across the U.S. and Canada have teamed up for the first annual North American Utilities United Against Scams Day.
Kicking-off the campaign this past Wednesday, “this day is part of a week-long advocacy and awareness campaign focused on exposing the tactics scammers use to steal money from utility customers and on educating customers about how to protect themselves,” reports Forbes.
Scammers will find a way to trick us into giving out personal information or make unnecessary payments, and the only way we can prevent them is knowing how to protect ourselves and raising awareness.
Here are a few tips to help you from becoming a utility scammer’s next victim:
1. Utility companies will NOT demand payment – You may be contacted by utility companies through the mail and an occasional outbound call to discuss payment plans, but your local utility company will never demand payment, especially with a prepaid gift card.
2. NEVER give out your personal information – If you are not expecting a call, or have not verified that you are talking to an official representative from a utility company, make sure NOT to give out your personal or financial information if an unexpected caller makes the request.
3. Hang-up IMMEDIATELY – When you get a suspicious call, go with your gut feeling, hang-up, and call your local utility company to verify if you have any overdue bills you should be aware of.
4. SHARE your experience – If city officials and utility companies are not aware of the scams that are occurring, there is no way for them catch a scammer in the act. Understanding how criminals work is the first step to protecting yourself and others from becoming a victim.