Scam of the day – January 24, 2017 – Utility bill scams

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.

TIPS

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.

Scam of the day – June 1, 2015 – Electric company warning about billing scam

Two major New England electric power companies Eversource and New Hampshire Electric Coop are warning their customers about a telephone scam presently preying upon consumers in which the the targeted victim receives a telephone call purportedly from his or her electric power company threatening to shut off the customer’s electricity unless an immediate payment is made of an overdue bill.  The scammers are even utilizing a technique called “spoofing” by which your Caller ID is manipulated so that it appears that the call really is coming from your electric company.  The targeted victim is pressured to pay the overdue bill by credit card over the phone.  Customers falling for this scam not only risk losing the money the pay the scammer, but risk losing even more because they provide the scammer with their credit card information which can be exploited by the scammer for even more theft.

TIPS

Your electric power provider will never demand an immediate payment over the phone coupled with the threat of an immediate disconnecting of your electricity if you do not comply.  If you receive such a call, the best thing you can do is to just hang up.  If you believe that you may be behind in your monthly payment, you should call the customer service telephone number provided on your bill to discuss a payment plan.  Although the reports of this scam are coming, at the moment, from New England, this scam is one that is repeated continuously throughout the country.

Scam of the day – January 5, 2015 – New utility scam

I have warned you numerous times over the years about scams that start with a phone call that purports to be from a utility company, such as your electricity provider or telephone company, demanding payment of your bill immediately or your service will be terminated.  These calls can be quite disconcerting and adept scammers can even fool your Caller ID through a technique called “spoofing” where the call appears to come from the real company with which you do business.  Now, in a bit of a throwback, reports are surfacing of scammers mailing out electricity bills that look quite legitimate demanding payment specifically be wired.  The ease by which counterfeit copies of bills can be made today, makes this type of scam easy to accomplish.

TIPS

No utility company or other company with which you do business will demand payment by wired funds.  Wired funds are a primary choice of scammers because they are easy and quick to accomplish as well as simple to hide.  If you ever receive a bill appearing from a company that changes the method of payment, you should contact the company by phone at a number that you know is correct to confirm the truth of the situation.

Scam of the day – July 22, 2013 – Utility scam

With summertime electricity use extremely high due to the extreme heat being felt in most of the country, scammers have revived a scam that we saw last winter whereby scammers call people on the phone purporting to be a representative of the local electric company.  They then proceed to tell the unwary receiver of the call that unless they immediately make a payment through a prepaid card, such as Green Dot, there electricity will be shut off.  Many electric company customers have fallen for this scam.  Often the scammers will even be able to “spoof” or copy the phone company’s name and telephone number so that if you have caller ID, the call will appear to come from the electric company when in fact, it is not.

TIP
Your real electric company will never demand an immediate payment through a prepaid card if you are behind in your electric bill.  If you actually are behind in your electric bill, you should contact the electric company yourself to work out a payoff program.  In other variations of this scam, the scammer will ask for your credit card number over the phone to take your payment in that manner.  Never provide any personal information such as your credit card number or Social Security number to anyone on the phone whom you have not called.  You can never be sure that the person calling you is whom they purport to be.

Scam of the day – July 11, 2012 – Obama utility bill scam

A scam that is making its way around the country and scamming thousands of people involves scammers notifying their victims that the victims are eligible for a utility payment assistance program authorized by President Obama.  The victims are told that all they need to do is to register for the program by providing their Social Security number and other personal information.  They are then given bank account numbers and bank routing numbers to be used to pay electronically their utility bills.  One unfortunate reason that the scam has proved so successful for scammers is that when the utility companies receive the initial electronic payment, they apply the amount sent electronically to the bill of the scam victim so it appears for a while that the program is actually real.  However, once the electronic payment fails to clear, the payment is rescinded cancelling the payment and making the victim liable for late fees.  Meanwhile the victim has given his or her Social Security number and  personal information to the scammer that can be used to make the victim a further victim of identity theft.

TIPS

There is no such utility payment assistance program.  Do not fall for this scam.  If you are ever told that there is a federal or state program for which you are eligible for benefits, check out your eligibility on your own directly with the state or federal agencies involved.  Never give your personal information to anyone unless you are sure who they are.