You get a call or a visit from someone claiming to be from your local utility company. They explain that your bill is past due and threaten to shut off your service if you don't make a payment. However, you know your monthly bill was paid. Do you need to worry?
The answer is yes, but not for the reason you might think. Utility bill scams are becoming increasingly common. Scammers will use aggressive tactics, such as insisting your account is delinquent and threatening to shut off service immediately. In some cases, scammers will “spoof” their phone number, making it look as if the call is coming from Duquesne Light or another one of your utility companies. As a customer, it can be difficult to ignore these convincing phone calls, emails and even home visits.
Today (Nov. 18) is the fifth annual Utility Scam Awareness Day, and we’re teaming up with Edison Electric Institute and Utilities United Against Scams to help protect you from utility bill scams. Here are some red flags to watch out for:
- They demand payment in unconventional ways, including cash, bank transfer or a check in their name.
- They request personal information such as your social security number and bank account numbers.
- The scammer has no proof of employment with your utility company and isn't wearing branded clothing or materials.
In some cases, scammers will use seasonal bill spikes as an opportunity to swindle customers. For example, they might show up at your door with a fake promotion to help you save money. This type of fraud is most common in the summer and winter months when increased energy demand leads to higher bills and customers may be more receptive to savings opportunities.
If you encounter what you believe to be a utility bill scam, follow these steps:
- If a suspected scammer shows up at your home, lock the doors.
- Report the suspicious activity to local law enforcement.
- Contact your utility company and explain the situation.
- Spread the word to family, friends and neighbors so they don't become victims of the scam.
- Report the scam at StopFraud.gov, a U.S. Department of Justice website.
Keep in mind that if your bill is in fact unpaid, your utility company will not immediately disconnect service. First, you'll receive a bill highlighting the overdue amount. If this payment is still not received, the next step is a disconnection notice. Your utility company will give you ample time to make payments and will never use threatening tactics. With this knowledge, you can empower yourself against scammers.
If you suspect you’ve been targeted by a scam, call us at 412-393-7100. To learn more safety tips, visit our website.