Local pronunciation foils scammers

We’ve discussed utility scams in the past. The utility scam is another impersonation scam where scammers will pose as your local power company. They’ll call you and threaten to shut off your power if you don’t make an immediate payment with gift cards or prepaid debit cards. As we’ve also mentioned in the past, no legitimate company or agency will ever ask you to make payment in gift cards. Recently in Virginia, scammers failed to trick at least one person in this scam due to their pronunciation of the local power company.

Appalachian Power Co. operates in the western part of Virginia and in West Virginia near the Appalachian Mountains. One report states that scammers have been targeting Appalachian Power Co. with threats to shut off their service. The scammers will tell Appalachian Power Co. customers that they have trucks in the customer’s neighborhood and will cut off their power in less than 30 minutes. Scammers will often present high-pressure situations like this in order to keep their victims emotionally off-balance.

What the scammers didn’t count on was the correct pronunciation of the word ‘Appalachian’. Most people who live outside the region of the Appalachian Mountains will pronounce it like ‘apple-AY-shun’ while people from the region pronounce it as ‘apple-ATCH-un’. This pronunciation error tipped off at least one man that the call was a scam.

As always with these utility scams, power companies will never call you demanding payment while threatening to terminate your service. All notices will be sent through the mail. Not only that, but keep ion mind that many power companies now use smart meters which means that power can now be terminated remotely if need be.

The trick is to keep things like this in mind when one of these scammers call you. Pronunciation of city and area names will be known to people working in the area. If the scammers mispronounce the local variation of the name, that’s a good indicator they’re a scammer. Generally, if something feels off about a call like this there’s no harm in hanging up on them then calling your power company directly.