Don’t Fall Victim to Utility Scams
Every day, millions of Americans are targeted by scammers through phone calls, emails, text messages, online or in person. Scammers’ tactics can change daily, which is why it’s important for consumers to stay on top of the latest scam reports from local and national news outlets, as well as your local utility companies.
Just last month, several Volunteer Energy Cooperative (VEC) members were targeted through a phone scam where the scammers demanded immediate payment and threatened to shut off power if the money was not received. Remember, VEC will never call you and demand immediate payment without notice.
We want you to be aware of two trending scam tactics. One is the overpayment trick, where a scammer contacts you and claims that you have overpaid your utility bill. The scammer will say they need your personal banking information to deposit the credit back to your checking account. Don’t fall for this scam! If you make an overpayment on your energy bill, VEC will automatically apply the credit to your account, which will carry over to your next billing cycle. Another trending scam is smishing (short for SMS phishing). Many consumers know to watch out for suspicious emails, but we tend to trust text messages sent to our smartphones. Always question suspicious texts, especially from someone claiming to represent a utility. VEC will only send you important updates via text if you’ve signed up for our [insert name of mobile alert/SMS program]. These are just a couple of examples of trending scams, so it’s important to watch for any red flags.
Here are a few reminders on how to take control of the situation when you’ve been targeted by a scammer:
- Take your time. Utility scammers try to create a sense of urgency so that you’ll act fast and hand over personal information, especially over the phone. Take a moment to think about the situation before acting.
- Be suspicious. Scammers typically request immediate payments through prepaid debit cards or third-party apps. Unusual requests like this should raise red flags. Remember, if the request seems strange and out of the ordinary, you’re likely being targeted by a scammer.
- Confirm before you act. If you’re contacted by someone claiming to represent VEC or another utility but you’re unsure, just hang up the phone and call VEC to verify the situation.
Our increasingly connected world provides scammers with more opportunities to connect with unsuspecting consumers. Be vigilant, and please report any utility scams to [Insert co-op/PPD/PUD name] so we can let others in our community know. Together, we can help prevent our friends and neighbors from being victimized.\