April 10 2017

FTC Warns of 'Utility Shut Off' Scam


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a scam where a caller threatens to have a customer’s electricity shut off if they don’t pay “overdue bills” immediately.

The FTC says these types of scams can be effective because of the hassle involved with having the power cut.

“When your electricity goes out, you lose power in more ways than one,” the warning states “Daily necessities are out of reach without lights, warm water, and heat or air conditioning.”

“So if you get a call from someone threatening to shut off your utilities because they say you owe money, you’re going pay attention – and you may even pay up,” the FTC continues. “But not so fast. The caller might be an imposter running a utility scam.”

How can you tell that the call is scam? The FTC says that if the caller wants you to send money quickly, and in a very specific way, that is a clue.

“He may say the only way to make the “payment” is by wiring the money or using a prepaid card,” the warning states. “That’s because scammers want your money quick, and they want to stay hidden. But once you wire money or use a prepaid card, your money is gone for good.”

Here are a few ways to protect yourself:

- Make sure you’re really dealing with your utility company. Call the company using the number on your bill. You can also check your bill to confirm what you owe.

- Never wire money or send the number from a prepaid card to someone you don’t know — regardless of the situation. Once you do, you cannot get your money back.

- Contact the company if you are falling behind on your utility bill. See if you can work out a payment plan to catch up and keep your service on.

-Pass on information about imposter scams to people you know – and keep in touch with the latest scams by signing up for the FTC’s scam alerts. Report it to the FTC if you think a scammer has contacted you.


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