AP NEWS

Utility companies warn of scam

November 15, 2018

United Illuminating, Southern Connecticut Gas, Connecticut Natural Gas and Berkshire Gas said Wednesday there have been various reports of scammers threatening customers for money.

There were multiple reports of scams where callers threatened to disconnect gas or electric service to customers unless they made immediate payment over the phone using a prepaid debit card.

“While most customers recognize these calls as scams, a small number have been persuaded to make payments,” a news release said. “It’s an old swindle with some new twists.”

Scammers figured out how to make the caller ID on customers’ phone show up as the utility company. In some cases, perpetrators seemed to have specific knowledge about the customers. Sometimes, the scammers gave a callback number with a recorded greeting similar to the energy company’s customer service line.

Those running the scam will often target restaurants, markets or sandwich shops just before their lunch or dinner rushes. But residential customers have also reported receiving calls.

There are various red flags in terms of scams like these, untility companies say, including the most essential one — none of the real companies linked to these scams demand payment from customers over the phone.

If a customer even falls behind on payments, they’ll get a notice with a specific disconnection date and have the chance to pay or enter a payment arrangement before the service is disconnected.

When it comes down to making payments, utility companies accept a variety of types, including credit cards and bank transfers. But if a caller insists on payment by a prepaid debit card, the call is not legitimate.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim, the companies said, is to check for employee identification on in-person visitors and protect all personal information.

Anyone who becomes the victim of a scam should report it to the utility company, local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission.

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