About a week ago I told you about Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita issuing a warning about a dramatic increase in telephone scams involving scammers posing as utility company customer service representatives demanding immediate payments and threatening to turn off electrical power if a payment is not made immediately. Scams involving utility bills for electric, water or gas services have long been popular with scammers. Some of these scammers are so blatant that they even have asked for payments to be delivered to a laundromat.
In one common utility 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. This, of course leads to identity theft.
In another version of the scam, 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, debit card or gift cards. A demand for payment by way of a gift card is a good sign that you are dealing with a scammer since legitimate utility companies never require payments or accept payments through git cards.
In a third version of this scam, potential victims receive an email that has a link to take them to their bill, but if you click on the link, you either download malware or are prompted to provide information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft.
Now we are learning of a new version of the utility scam as reported by Duke Energy in North Carolina in which the scammers call targeted victims and tell them that their power will be cut off within an hour if they didn’t pay a deposit over the phone for anew “smart meter.” Of course it is a scam.
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. It is also important to remember that no legitimate utility company will require you to immediately pay your bill over the phone through a gift card.
We are also seeing scammers demanding payments through Cash App, Venmo or Zelle, which should never be used to pay for anything other then sending small amounts of money to people you know and trust. These apps should not be used for business purchases. Scammers love wire payments, gift cards, Cash App, Venmo and Zelle because they are pretty much impossible to stop once payment has been made.
For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.” Scamicide was cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.
If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of http://www.scamicide.com and type in your email address where it states “Sign up for this blog.”