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CenterPoint Energy urges customers to be on alert for potential scams

November 15, 2018

With utility customers around the country being targeted by scammers, CenterPoint Energy is continuing its efforts to raise awareness and educate customers about utility imposter scams.

Posing as utility company employees, scammers are calling customers to tell them they are behind on their bills and have a short time to make a payment. The customers are told to pay with their credit card or purchase a Green Dot pre-paid debit card with Bitcoin or other type of reloadable debit card. The scammers then tell customers to load the cards with money and provide the serial number from the card to avoid having their service shut off at the meter.

CenterPoint Energy is a member of Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), a consortium of more than 100 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas companies, and their respective trade associations that works with regulators, law enforcement and other telecommunications partners to educate and raise awareness to stop scams targeting utility customers. UUAS and its member companies have helped to shut down more than 2,200 Toll-Free Numbers used by scammers against utility customers.

“CenterPoint Energy is proud to be a member of UUAS and contribute to the mission of protecting customers from impostor utility scams,” said Kevin Marquardt, Data Privacy Manager for CenterPoint Energy. “We will continue to help spread awareness of suspicious behaviors and the evolving tactics that scammers use to target customers and we are a participating in this year’s third annual National Utility Scam Awareness Day. We also want to remind customers to report any suspicious activity and if they fall victim, contact their bank or other financial institution to report the incident.”

To avoid falling victim to any scam, CenterPoint Energy reminds customers of the following:

Protecting personal and financial customer data is of utmost importance to CenterPoint Energy;

CenterPoint Energy phone agents (whether inbound or outbound) will NEVER personally request banking or credit card information over the phone, but will instead transfer a customer to an Interactive Voice Response system to collect payment information for natural gas bills;

If someone calls, texts, appears, or emails saying you must pay your bill immediately to avoid disconnection, tell them you would like to verify that they are a legitimate utility company representative by calling a verified number on the utility’s website or on your monthly bill. Verify the identity of the individual requesting information before sharing credit card numbers and any personal information;

Contact 911 and report suspicious activity to the local police;

Call and report the incident to the local utility provider and the Better Business Bureau;

The Federal Trade Commission’s website is a good source of information about how to protect personal information and educate yourself on the different types of impostor scams; and

Visit UtilitiesUnited.org for more information and tips about how customers can protect themselves from impostor utility scams or follow along on social media: Twitter @U_U_A_S and Facebook @UtilitiesUnited.

UUAS was recently awarded the Toll-Free Industry’s Fraud Fighter Award in recognition of its advocacy and awareness campaign to stop scams that target electric, water, and natural gas company customers. UUAS was presented the award in October at the Toll-Free User Summit hosted by Somos, Inc., in Las Vegas. The Toll-Free Industry Awards were established to recognize individuals and companies that are at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in the Toll-Free Industry. The Fraud Fighter Award is presented annually and is given to an individual or organization actively working to protect the public from fraudulent activities and scams.

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