AC business

Better Business Bureau warns of utility scam | Local News

ANDERSON — The con happens any time of year and typically during extreme cold or heat when many people are more likely to need their heat or air conditioning. Scammers impersonate water, electric and gas company representatives threatening residents and business owners with deactivation of service if they don’t pay up immediately. 

Within the last year, the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana has received numerous Scam Tracker reports from consumers losing more than $2,000 to utility scams.

How the scam works:  

Utility company impostors will typically contact customers with a telephone call or knock on the door claiming to be a representative from the local water, electric, or gas company. In the most common scenario, they will claim payment is overdue and the utility will shut off within the hour if the bill is not paid immediately.

Scammers use a variety of other tricks to prey on utility customers, the BBB reports. A “representative” may appear at the door in a plausible work uniform claiming that the electric meter is not working properly and must be immediately replaced at the homeowner’s expense.

In another form of this con, the scammer may gain access inside the home to perform “repairs” or an “energy audit” with the intent of stealing valuables or coming across personal information in plain sight. These cons may also involve promises of energy discounts with the intent of taking money, personal information or account details needed to switch the resident to another utility provider without  consent (an illegal practice known as “slamming”).

The BBB has provided the following tips to spot the scam:

  • Prepaid debit cards and wire transfers are a red flag. If a caller specifically asks for payment by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, this is a significant warning sign. Utility companies will often accept a check or credit card.  
  • Pressure to pay immediately. Scammers will press for immediate payment and may try high-pressure tactics to intimidate consumers into giving them personal and banking information.
  • Call customer service. If you feel pressured for immediate action by a caller, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative. Never give your personal or banking information to an unverified or unsolicited caller.
  • Never allow anyone into your home unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification before letting them enter.

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