POSTED: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 7:30pm
UPDATED: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 7:34pm
NATIONAL NEWS — Utility companies throughout the US and Canada are warning their customers about a new con. Scammers are calling residents and impersonating utility staff, claiming to be collecting on late bills.
How the Scam Works:
The phone rings, and the person on the other line identifies her/himself as a representative from your local electric, water or gas company. He or she tells you that you are late on your bill. You need to pay mmediately, or your utilities will terminated.
However, instead of accepting payment by credit card or check, the caller wants you to pay by prepaid debit card. The scammer instructs you to obtain a prepaid debit card and call him/her back.
Prepaid Debit Cards and Scams:
Prepaid debit cards are becoming an increasingly popular method of payment for scammers. Wire transfer services have tightened their security, so crooks have turned to these prepaid cards instead. The cards are difficult to trace, and you do not need photo identification to collect or spend the money.
Be sure you treat a prepaid debit card like cash and remember that transactions cannot be reversed.
Tips for Spotting a Utility Scam:
Because local gas, water and electric companies do sometimes contact their customers by phone, it can be difficult to tell a scammer from a real agent. Here are some tips:
- If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card, this is a red flag. Your utility company will accept a check or credit card.
- If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative.
Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.