Scammers are relentless in their pursuit to separate you from your money. Among their most common schemes are impersonating electric company personnel and using false threats of immediate service disconnection to trick thousands of unsuspecting customers into providing payments and personally identifiable information.
As part of our commitment to protect customers, the Edison Electric Institute and our member electric companies joined forces with electric, natural gas and water utilities across North America four years ago to increase awareness of this very serious problem. Since then, the Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) coalition has received numerous awards and recognition for its advocacy, and, more important, we have successfully helped utility customers to identify and avoid scammers’ tactics.
EEI’s member companies and our UUAS partners are united in our mission to inform and educate customers of the increasingly sophisticated techniques scammers use to contact customers by phone, by text, by mail, by email, and even in person. They use seemingly authentic phone numbers, recordings of official utility automated voice instructions, email addresses, logos and convincing uniforms. Everyone is a potential target, but these criminals home in on vulnerable populations — such as small businesses, seniors and non-native English speakers — to increase their chances of success.
Utilities United Against Scams week is Nov. 17-23. As the busy holiday season approaches, a time when scams are even more prevalent than usual, our industry urges customers always to be vigilant and suspicious of any demand for immediate payment to avoid imminent utility shut-off. Fortunately, you can protect yourself by knowing how to spot the signs of a scam and by taking the appropriate steps to avoid becoming a victim. First, end the contact. That means shut the door, end the call, and/or delete the email, and report suspicious activity to local law enforcement.
If you doubt the authenticity of a communication from your provider, contact the utility using the phone number on the company website, on your official bill, or through the local telephone directory. Never use the contact information provided by a potential scammer. Always ask to see a company photo ID, and, if you have doubts about a person at your door claiming to be from your utility, call your utility company to verify their information and the work to be done before allowing them into your home or business.
If you feel you are in personal danger, call 911.
Remember, electric companies always provide ample notice via postal mail before disconnection, never send a single notification one hour or less before disconnection, and they never demand immediate payment through pre-paid cards or cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin.
We are asking for your help to spread the word. Share these tips, and your experience with potential scammers, to help protect your friends, neighbors and community. If you are a small business owner or manager, make sure your employees know what to do if they receive one of these calls. Visit www.utilitiesunited.org for more information and tips about protecting yourself from impostor utility scams and follow along on social media: Twitter @U_U_A_S and Facebook @UtilitiesUnited.
Scammers are becoming more sophisticated; but we are standing firm and fighting back. Working together, year-round, with communities and law enforcement on collaborative efforts like the Utilities United Against Scams coalition, EEI and its member companies are tireless in our resolve to help educate and protect customers like you from these malicious scammers.