What is a utility imposter scammer? Utility scams may strike at any time, but they’re widespread in areas with chaotic weather or the wake of natural disasters. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to spot a fraudulent scheme while busy with the hustle and bustle of life.
Read on for red flags should you look out for the next time there’s a storm looming.
What does a utility scam look like?
How scary would it be to have your utility company threaten to shut off your service? Scams like these are unfortunately common. Especially when bad weather is brewing. The last thing you need is a loss of power during a storm.
Utility scammers take advantage of the fear factor most homeowners would feel if they were cornered in a situation like this. They masquerade as your gas, electricity or water providers to procure payment or personal information from unsuspecting people.
A few of the most common utility scams include these devilish tricks:
- Representatives threatening to discontinue your service.
- Fake routing numbers and instructions to wire payments.
- Invoices for services, equipment or other installations you never received.
- Overpayment scams and requests for banking info to get reimbursed.
- Reconnection fees when your service is already fine.
- SMS scams asking for personal or account information.
- False reports on gas or water leaks.
- Fake bills that mimic official documents.
You should always verify any of the above with your utility provider’s website when in doubt. Contacting an agent directly is never a bad idea and can help you prevent a huge mistake before it has a chance to happen.
We know that emergencies can be scary. However, you should remain conscious of terrible people hoping to capitalize on your misfortune. Even when it feels like the world is falling apart, try to keep your cool and think critically about suspicious or fraudulent correspondence.
Aside from learning more about how utility scammers try to dupe innocent customers out of their cash, the following tips ensure you never find yourself completely out of luck.
How to protect yourself from utility scams
A call from your gas, electric, or water company threatening to turn off your service immediately is probably a scam. If a scammer approaches you, report it to the FTC through ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Here are more ways to stay safe:
- When the phone rings and you suspect it to be a scammer, hang up immediately. If you are still unsure, don’t call the number back. Instead, phone your utility company using the number on your bill or its official website.
- After hanging up on the scammer, add the number to your phone’s block list so they can’t phone you again.
- If a supposed utility worker shows up at your front door, politely decline their offer to help without verifying there is an issue first. They might be insistent on completing the job. In that case, ask for official identification. If they can’t produce it, decline again and close the door. If they hand you identification, call your utility company (from the number on your bill) and ask if a worker is in your neighborhood.
- Scammers might also claim that you owe the utility company money. Again, the best way to verify this is to call your power company and double-check the details. Your utility company might also send you bills over email or have a website where you can check.
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