Scammers target utility customers

You receive a call from someone claiming to be your utility company and they tell you your payment is past due. They threaten to shut off your power if you don’t give them an immediate payment, what would you do? If you send them a payment, you’ll probably end up a victim of a widespread utility scam.

Connexus Energy has received numerous complaints from our residential and business members about this growing phone scam. It’s possible there are many more members who have not called us and have unwittingly fallen victim to the scammers.

How to tell if you're being scammed

It’s probably a scam if the caller demands immediate payment and threatens immediate disconnection. If you’re asked to wire money, use a money order, a gift card, go through PayPal, or make a payment that is outside our regular payment process, chances are good you’re being scammed.

Connexus has a process in place before disconnecting any service. There is no “immediate” disconnection. We send letters, leave door hangers, and discuss payment arrangements with members. In addition, we do not disconnect at night or on weekends.

The scammers have gotten more sophisticated over the years. Now, their caller ID appears to originate from the utility. Not to mention copying our interactive voice mail system to make you think you are calling us. That’s a practice known as spoofing. If you’re unsure about any call you receive from us, call our member services phone number, 763.323.2650, which is also on your bill. That way you’ll know that you’re dealing with Connexus Energy.

If the call turns out to be a scam, please report it immediately to your local police.

Top impostor utility scams

Hang up on phone scams

Disconnection Deception
Scammers call threatening disconnection of your utility service, demanding immediate payment by prepaid cards purchased at a local retail store (or credit card, debit card, bank draft, wiring money, etc.), and insisting you call them back with the card information to make payment. Your utility will send you one or more disconnection notices in the mail before disconnecting or shutting off your utility service, and they will offer several bill payment options without specifying the type of payment you need to make.

Bill Payment or Credit Con
Scammers may provide you with a phony account routing number for you to use to pay your utility bills, receive a credit, or obtain federal assistance. In exchange for personal information that can be used for identity theft, you may get a payment account number. If the number is entered during an online transaction, it may appear that your bill is paid, but no funds are actually paid to the utility, the account balance remains due, and you may be charged a returned payment fee by your utility.

Equipment or Repair Bogus Fee
Scammers call demanding a separate payment to replace or install a utility-related device or meter. If a utility needs to upgrade or replace a piece of equipment, it will contact you ahead of time as a courtesy. If there is a charge related to work on equipment you might own, it will typically be included in your monthly bill as the utility does not collect a separate payment for equipment or installation.

Overpayment Trick
Scammers call claiming you have overpaid your utility bill, and you need to provide personal bank account information or a credit card number to facilitate a refund. Your utility may apply any overpayments you have made to your utility account, allowing the credit balance to cover any future charges, or refund any overpayment by mailing a check.

Power Restoration Rip Off
Scammers call offering to restore power quickly or in a preferential order for immediate payment or an upfront “reconnection fee,” typically in the aftermath of hurricanes and other severe storms causing widespread power outages. Utilities do not require payment to restore electricity, water, or natural gas service after a natural disaster or other related outage, though some utilities will accept in-person payment via check or phone payment after a disconnection for non-payment.

Smishing Scam
Smishing, short for SMS phishing, is a relatively new scam that attempts to trick mobile phone users into giving scammers personal information, which can be used for identity theft, via a text or SMS message. Scammers like smishing, as consumers tend to be more inclined to trust text messages. Utility companies typically do not text you unless you have signed up for a specific notification service offered by your utility.

*Source - Utilities United Against Scams

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