It’s no secret that consumers with a water, gas or electricity connection have long been targets for utility scams, but fraudsters have changed their tactics since the COVID-19 pandemic. As consumers became more reliant on technology for work, school and commerce, scammers noted these shifts and adapted their tactics to this changed environment.
Imposter scams are the No. 1 type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission. While scam artists may come to your door posing as a utility worker who works for the “power company,” in today’s more connected world, attempts are more likely to come through an electronic device, via email, phone or text. A scammer may claim you are overdue on your electric bill and threaten to disconnect your service if you don’t pay immediately. Whether this is done in person or by phone, text or email, the scammers want to scare you into immediate payment so you don’t have time to think clearly.
If this happens over the phone, simply hang up. If you’re concerned about your bill, call your local Powell Valley Electric Cooperative office. Our contact information can be found on your monthly bill and on our website, pve.coop. If the scam is by email or text, delete it before taking any action. For immediate assistance, use the PVEC app to check the status of your account.
Some scammers may falsely claim you have been overcharged on your bill and say they want to give you a refund. It sounds easy. All you have to do is click or press a button to initiate the process. If you proceed, you will be prompted to provide banking and/or other personal information. Instead of money going into your bank account, the scammers can drain your account and use personal information such as a social security number for identity theft . If this “refund” scam happens over the phone, just hang up and block the phone number to prevent future robocalls. If this scam attempt occurs via email (known as a “phishing” attempt) or by text (“smishing”), do not click any links. Instead, delete it and, if possible, block the sender.
If you do overpay on your energy bill, Powell Valley Electric Cooperative will automatically apply the credit to your next billing cycle. When in doubt, contact us. Be wary of calls or texts from unknown numbers. Be suspicious of an unknown person claiming to be a utility worker who requests banking or other personal information. Never let anyone into your home that you don’t know unless you have a scheduled appointment or reported a problem. We want to help protect our community against utility scams, and you can help create the first line of defense. Please report any potential scams to us so we can spread the word to prevent others in the community from falling victim.
— Brad Coppock