Most Consistent Scam of the Year: Utility Scam

Fraudsters have been taking advantage of rising electricity bills to prey on consumers by stealing personal and financial information. According to Hiya, Phone utility scams grew 109% in 2016, and have seen triple digit growth in 2017.

Consumers should be aware of the three main types of utility scams:

  •      Offers to lower utility bill. Scammers call to offer a plan to help lower the consumer’s electric bill. This will usually include asking the homeowner for account information and/or billing information to “review” the account.
  •      Threats to shut off electricity. Scammers will call to threaten that electricity will be shut off unless an overdue payment is made immediately. Consumers will also be directed to call an 800 number to avoid a service interruption. Watch out for messages that urge consumers to act fast, “This is an urgent public service announcement regarding your electricity bill.”
  •      Federal program assistance. The call will usually say the consumer is eligible for a reduced rate due to a federal program.

Here are the top 10 states who were affected by the utility scam in 2017 and what schemes each scammer used to lure victims in:

  1. 508 – Massachusetts (south-central and southeast)
    Eversource Energy
    Scammers call victims threatening that they will disconnect their electric or gas service if they do not make an immediate payment. They will also offer bill or credit discount rates if a customer provides them with their account number or any other personal information.
  2. 201 – Hudson, NJ
    Public Service Enterprise Group (PSE&G)
    Victim will receive a call from a bill collector notifying them that their PSE&G bill is past due and that their power will be shut off until a portion of the bill is not paid for immediately. Victim is told to purchase MoneyPak cash cards and must read the serial numbers back to the “representative,” giving the scammer access to the cards funds.
    Rochester Gas and Electric Corp (RG&E) and New York state Electric Gas Corp (NYSEG)
    Scammers contact customers and disguise themselves as utility representatives who are calling regarding so-called billing issues. They attempt to convince the customer to purchase a “Green Dot MoneyPak Card” and if they do not purchase the card, the “representative” threatens to shut off their utilities.
  3. 914 – Westchester County
    Con Edison
    Scammer will spoof their numbers. showing up as Con Edison on a customer’s caller ID. They will then claim to be a representative from Con Edison and notify customers that their service will be shut off due to the unpaid bill. The customer is told that the only way they can prevent this from happening is to purchase pre-paid cards or to arrange a money transfer via MoneyGram to pay the bill.
  4. 323 – Los Angeles, CA
    Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
    Scammers are stealing PG&E customers’ identities by calling and posing as representatives of the company. Customers have been notified through phone calls and emails of overdue bills that appear to be sent form PG&E and need to be paid for immediately.
    Southern California Edison (SCE) 
    Spoofing caller IDs and claiming to be Southern California Edison, scammers are threatening and demanding customers give their credit card numbers, buy prepaid cards, or wire money directly to them or else they will turn off their electricity within an hour.
  5. 330 – Akron, OH
    First Energy Corp/American Electric Power/Duke Energy
    Scammers notify customers of overdue bills and threaten customers that they will shut off gas or electric services if they do not pay immediately. The growing number of calls is rising as temperatures begin to fall as scammers feed off of people’s fear of losing heat in the cold winter weather.
  6. 510 – Oakland, CA  
    Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
    Scammers are stealing PG&E customers’ identities by calling and posing as representatives of the company. Customers have been notified through phone calls and emails of overdue bills that appear to be sent form PG&E and need to be paid for immediately.
  7. 916 – Sacramento, CA 
    Southern California Edison (SCE)
    Scammers pose as SCE representatives and contact SCE customers notifying them that they need to make immediate payments on past due bills. If they do not pay by prepaid cash cards or debit cards they will disconnect their electric service immediately.
  8. 717 – Harrisburg, PA
    PPL Electric Utilities
    Posing as callers from PPL Electric Utilties call center, customers are being notified that their accounts have had a number of past due bills and they need to make an immediate payment or else their electricity will be shut off. Customers are told to pay with prepaid debit cards and are told to call a phony call center where they are to enter their account information.
  9. 857 – Boston, MA
    Duke Power
    Using spoofing technology, scammers claim to be from Duke Power and pretend they are calling customers about that account being past overdue and if they do not pay immediately their services will be shut down immediately.
  10. 440 – Cleveland, OH
    Illuminating Co, FirstEnergy, Dominion East Ohio, Cleveland Public Power, and Cleveland Water
    Scammers notify customers of overdue bills and threaten customers that they will shut off gas or electric services if do not pay immediately. The growing number of calls is rising as temperatures begin to fall, scammers feed off of people’s fear of losing heat in the cold winter weather.

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