We all know that electricity is essential to our everyday lives. Unfortunately, so do scammers. And utility customers throughout the country are being targeted by imposter utility scams every day.
One of the most common types of utility scams involves customers receiving unsolicited telephone, electronic or in-person communications from an individual claiming to be a utility company representative. The scammer warns that the customer’s electric will be disconnected if the customer fails to make an immediate payment — typically using untraceable cash such as a reloadable prepaid debit card. Scammers have even duplicated the Duke Energy upfront Interactive Voice Response system, so when customers call back phone numbers provided by the scammer, it sounds like a legitimate Duke Energy phone number. Some of these criminals also use caller ID spoofing to replicate Duke Energy's customer service number. Here’s a link to the audio files of actual scam calls.
While scammer tactics change daily, ways to protect yourself do not. If you get one of these phone calls hang up, call the police and your utility provider using the phone number on your bill. Stay vigilant and put scammers out of business. Fight back by being informed and sharing with friends, family and the businesses you support. For more information on how to spot a utility scam and protect personal information, visit www.duke-energy.com/StopScams. Duke Energy is the founder of the Utilities United Against Scams collaborative consisting of more than 114 gas, electric and water utility companies across the country and Canada. Members of the organization work across the utility industry and with regulators, law enforcement and other telecommunications partners to help stop scams targeting utility customers.
- Red flags for scam activity
- The thief becomes angry and tells the customer his or her account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn't made – usually in less than an hour.
- The thief instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to provide the card information to supposedly make a payment to Duke Energy. Some scammers may request a money wire or money order.
- The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card's receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card's funds.
- How to protect yourself
- Duke Energy never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
- Customers have multiple payment options. They can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
- Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification with the regular monthly billing – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.
- Customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, should contact local authorities, and then the Duke Energy phone number listed on their bill.
- How to identify utility workers conducting work on or near your property
- If customers question whether the person is a legitimate utility representative, contact the utility to verify their identity and reason for the visit.
- Always ask for identification. Duke Energy employees of Duke Energy will have identification associated with the company.
- In some instances, representatives from private companies may be working in your area on behalf of your utility as a contractor. If they do not have an official identification card, ask for their name and the reason for their visit, and then contact the utility to verify the information.
- Customers should not let anyone into their homes unless they have verified identity, or have scheduled the visit through the utility in advance.
Customers should call police immediately if they believe the person is an imposter.