As temperatures drop utility scams begin heating up. Consumers rely more on their utilities during the winter months and scammers aim to take advantage.
Utility imposters call, email or knock on your door and claim to be a representative from the local water, electric or gas company.
In most scenarios, consumers are informed that a payment is overdue, and their utilities will be shut off unless an immediate payment is made. In September, one Connecticut resident reported that they received a phone call claiming their power would be turned off in thirty minutes unless they dialed a 1-800 number and paid immediately.
This particular scam was impersonating New England’s largest energy company, Eversource.
Local law enforcement representatives are also sounding the alarm on scammers.
“Unsolicited phone calls, emails, or door-to-door contacts should be regarded as suspicious,” said East Windsor Police Chief DeMarco. “Be polite but firm. Say ‘no’, hang up, delete the email, or close the door. Never be afraid or embarrassed to call the police for help or to report a scam. These criminals are good at what they do, and they prey on us, so get the help you need to protect yourself.”
- All Eversource employees carry photo identification; field workers wear company logoed clothing and drive company vehicles.
- Eversource representatives never demand instant payment in person or over the phone.
- Eversource representatives do not require the use of prepaid debit cards (such as Green Dot MoneyPak, Vanilla or Reloadit.)
- Eversource representatives never request customers meet at a payment center, such as a department or grocery store, to make a payment.
- Eversource does not solicit door-to-door or on the phone on behalf of third-party energy suppliers.
Eversource urges anyone who believes they are a target of improper solicitation to please alert local law enforcement and contact the company directly at 1-800-286-2000. The energy company tracks these types of customer concerns and reports them to state regulators.
Scammers also use other tactics to get into people’s wallets.
It’s important to be cautious of anyone claiming to be able to switch energy providers while offering extreme discounts. This could be a scam or another third-party provider using deceptive business practices.
There are legitimate energy providers out there. Verify that a business is legitimate or search for energy providers on bbb.org.
BBB offers the following red flags if consumers are contacted by someone claiming to be their utility company.
- Pressure for immediate payment – Scammers often demand immediate payment for an alleged overdue bill. A sense of urgency is always a red flag in any scam situation.
- A threat to disconnect service – Consumers are almost always threatened with being cut off from their utility unless an immediate payment is made. Eversource says they will always give a consumer written notice via mail first.
- A request for payment via prepaid debit cards or wire transfer – Scammers request these types of payments since they are virtually untraceable. It is extremely difficult to retrieve funds that are lost via these methods.
- Showing up to your home without an appointment – A legitimate utility company will never show up to your door unannounced or without an appointment. If they do, the representative should be carrying proper identification.
- If it doesn’t seem right, call customer service – If someone emails, calls or shows up to your door and you are unsure about their legitimacy, you can always call your utility company to verify.
- Never allow a stranger into your home without a scheduled appointment – Be suspicious of anyone who unexpectedly arrives at your home or business demanding immediate payment or requesting access to your dwelling to check water pipes, wiring, natural gas pipes, appliances, or other utility related issues. Don’t let them in without verifying their credentials with the company first.
- Delete emails that you are unsure about – If you receive an email from your utility company that seems suspicious, delete it. Do not click the links, open attachments or respond. It could be a phishing scam.
To see if any utility scams have been reported in your area you can check BBB Scam Tracker.