November 15 marks the second annual Utility Scam Awareness Day, with natural gas and electric utility companies across the United States and Canada joining forces to inform customers and protect them from imposter utility scams. By sharing information and working together, Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), is arming customers with the knowledge to spot scams and protect their information.
As part of the UUAS collaboration, communications are planned with customers during the week of Nov. 13 through the website, newsletters, email, bill messages, video, media, advertising and social media content.
“While Duke Energy customers have become nearly 50 percent less susceptible to scams since the formation of UUAS in 2016, scams continue to evolve,” said Jared Lawrence, vice president of meter services and executive chairman of Utilities United Against Scams. “By knowing what to look for, customers can continue to shut down scammers and protect their wallets and personal information.”
Scammers posing as utility representatives use a variety of email, in-person and phone tactics to target families and businesses to steal money. According to Hiya, a phone spam protection company, utility scams grew 109 percent in 2016.
“In partnership with UUAS over the past six months, we’ve shut down more than 500 toll-free numbers running utility scams, making it more difficult for scammers to victimize customers of Duke Energy and other participating utilities,” said Joel Bernstein, vice president of regulatory and public policy at Somos, which administrates toll-free numbers.
Common scam tactics
- Power disconnection threats: Customers may receive threats to turn off electric service – usually in less than an hour – if a large payment is not made.
- Immediate payment requests: Customers are asked to quickly purchase a prepaid debit card and provide the card information, which grants the scammer instant access to personal funds. Some scammers may also request a money wire.
- Calls that appear to be from your utility: Scammers may rig caller ID to make it look like the call is from a service provider.
How to protect yourself
- We encourage customers who suspect a scam to hang up and call Duke Energy immediately at the phone number listed on their bill, followed by a call to the police. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.
- Do not pay over the phone if immediate payment is demanded to avoid disconnection. Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification from Duke Energy with the regular monthly billing – never a single notification an hour before disconnection.
- Duke Energy never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection. Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
Duke Energy works closely with law enforcement and local attorneys general and business organizations to denounce scams and help protect communities.