Some scams have a way of popping out of the woodwork from time to time and then going underground before they resurface again.
Such is the case with the power company bill scam. We last saw it rear its ugly head in 2015 when there was a proliferation of utility shutoff scams.
And now, unfortunately, they’re back.
Crooks going door-to-door, making calls asking for payment on past-due electric bills
Utility shutoff scams take at least three forms:
- Door-to-door solicitation: A criminal knocks on your door asking for immediate payment or they’ll shut off your service.
- Small businesses targeted: A criminal hits restaurants at peak times, impersonating someone from the power company. They ask for payment in cash to avoid shut off.
- Phone solicitation: You’re asked to pay your supposedly past-due account by purchasing a prepaid card.
The latter scam is particularly hot in the Kansas City metro area right now, where the local utility company reports seeing a 76% increase in these calls over last year.
But it’s not exclusive to Kansas City. This is, in fact, a common scam in other metro areas throughout the country.
Here’s exactly how it works over the phone. The scammers spoof your caller ID to make the incoming call look like it’s coming from your local power or other utility company.
If you pick up, you typically get a live person on the line posing as a utility employee. They say your account is past due and shut-off of your service is imminent — unless you make immediate payment.
The preferred method of payment is a prepaid card such as a Green Dot MoneyPak. You’re told to go out and purchase one and then call back with the card number and PIN from the prepaid card.
If you fall for the bait, the criminal can then take that info you provided over the phone to drain the value you put onto that card.
Whenever you get a call like this, the best practice is to hang up. You know if you paid your bill or not, right? If you believe there is a legitimate question about your account status, get your bill statement out and call the utility directly at the number on your statement.
And remember, if anyone shows up at your door, they may be dressed in a mock uniform that looks like what a utility worker would wear. You should always ask for identification from any worker who shows up at your home or business.
If you have reason to question the authenticity of the identification they show you, just call the utility company directly to make sure you’re dealing with a known employee and not some crook masquerading as one.