Scams regarding payments of utility bills are occurring with greater frequency now that Winter has arrived. The Nebraska Public Service Commission is warning consumers about a number of these scams, but these scams are certainly not limited to Nebraska.
In one version of the scam, potential victims receive telephone calls purportedly from their utility company informing them of a special company promotion for which they are eligible. They just need to provide some personal information.
In another version, potential victims are called on the phone and told that their utility service will be terminated for non-payment unless they pay by credit card over the phone.
In a third version of this scam, potential victims receive an email that has a link to take them to their bill.
All of these are scams. In the first, there is no special promotion and the victim ends up providing personal information that leads to identity theft. In the second, the victim is coerced into giving their credit card information to a scammer and in the third, merely by clicking on the link to go to the phony bill, the victim ends up downloading keystroke logging malware or ransomware that can lead to identity theft or worse.
You can never be sure when you get an email or a telephone call if it is really from a legitimate source. Email addresses can be hacked to appear legitimate and even if you have Caller ID, a scammer can use a technique called “spoofing” to make it appear that the call is from a legitimate caller.
Trust me, you can’t trust anyone. Never provide personal or financial information to anyone in response to a telephone call, text message or email until you have independently confirmed that the communication was legitimate. In the case of a utility bill, merely call the number on the back of your bill and you will be able to confirm whether or not the communication was legitimate. Also, never click on links unless you have confirmed that they are legitimate. The risk is too great.