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  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 2, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , shut off scam, ,   

    Why is Zelle being used in a shut-off scam important? 

    Why is Zelle being used in a shut-off scam important?

    A few months ago, we published a blog post entitled ‘Will Zelle replace gift cards in online scams?‘ In that post, we wondered if the payment app Zelle would become the new currency of scams, replacing the old standard of gift cards. The reason we wondered this was not just because of the increased use of Zelle by scammers, but also because of the limited protection Zelle offers its users.

    Typically, when we post about a Zelle-related scam, it’s because a scammer used Zelle to empty a victim’s account while posing as their bank’s fraud department. You can read more about that scam here. However, we’re seeing Zelle being used more and more in other scams, where traditionally the scammers would demand payment in gift cards.

    For example, the shut-off scam is one that’s becoming increasingly popular among scammers. This is where a scammer will pose as a victim’s power company and threaten the victim over the phone with termination of service unless they make an immediate payment. Previously, these scammers would make the victim’s pay in gift cards, then Bitcoin ATMs became a popular avenue.

    Recently, a mother from Ohio fell victim to the shut-off scam. Instead of the scammer asking for payment in gift cards, they asked the victim to make a payment through Zelle. But the scammers didn’t get her to make just one payment. They got her to make four payments during one phone call.

    At first, they told her the Zelle payment didn’t go through, it did. Then they told her that Zelle only accepts whole dollar amounts and got her to make a second payment. She was then told to use a code when making the payment. Again, they told her the payment didn’t go through when it had. Lastly, they informed her that the code must have been entered wrong and instructed her to enter the code in all caps, marking the fourth payment. By this time, her account was drained.

    In previous instances like this, many of the banks that offer Zelle, throw up their hands and say that since the victim authorized the payment, it’s out of their hands. The consortium of banks who own Zelle could easily offer better protections for Zelle users, but choose not to.

    Much like other payment apps such as Cash App and Venmo, Zelle is only supposed to be used between friends and family. Unless you know someone personally, you shouldn’t pay them through Zelle. No legitimate company will ever ask you to pay bills through Zelle. Also, please keep in mind that no power company is going to threaten you over the phone with a termination of service. Instead, you would receive a warning in the mail before the service is turned off.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 25, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ComEd, , , shut off scam, , ,   

    Utility scammers move to payment apps 

    Utility scammers move to payment apps

    By Greg Collier

    Winter in the Midwest is an opportune time for utility scammers to find new victims. Power company ComEd, which serves the greater Chicago area, has reported that shut-off scams have increased by 150% and have claimed $27,000 from customers in just one month. No one who lives in the Midwest wants to face the possibility of losing their power during a cold Winter. These factors can create a perfect storm of fear that scammers are ready to take advantage of.

    The shut-off scam is exactly what it sounds like. Scammers will call up their victims while posing as the local electricity provider. The victims will be told they’re behind on their electricity bill and their service is about to be shut off in a matter of minutes. The scammers then demand an immediate payment to prevent the victim’s service from being terminated. Previously, scammers would get their victims to pay in gift cards, pre-paid debit cards, and, in some instances, cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. But now, scammers are moving to a different method for extracting money from their victims.

    According to the Better Business Bureau, shut-off scammers are using payment apps such as Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle, which makes sense in a strange way. With gift cards and cryptocurrency, scammers have to direct their victims to physical locations to complete the transaction. With payment apps, scammers can get the money almost immediately with minimal effort. It also helps the scammers that they can block the victim on these apps once they receive the payment. These apps also do not have a lot of customer protection once a user has been scammed.

    As always, no utility company will threaten you with termination over the phone. If you were to get behind in your bill, you would receive a written warning in the mail before any termination of service would happen. Also, please keep in mind that payment apps like Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle are only supposed to be used with people you know personally. Anyone else who asks for payment through these apps just may be trying to scam you.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , shut off scam, , Vance County   

    County Sheriff fooled by scam 

    County Sheriff fooled by scam

    By Greg Collier

    We often try to warn our readers that anybody can fall for the right scam. Your education and socioeconomic status don’t matter when it comes to con artists. You could be a CEO with a PhD raking in billions of dollars and still fall prey to a virtual kidnapping or romance scam. You could be a CPA and fall for the fake check scam. We’ve even discussed a time when someone from the Better Business Bureau, whose job it is to warn about scams, falling victim to a banking scam. Everybody has a scam with their name on it. If the circumstances are just right for the scammer, just about anybody can be fooled.

    This is exactly what happened to the County Sheriff of Vance County in North Carolina. Vance County is part of the greater Raleigh-Durham metro area, so we’re not talking about some remote and rural county. The Sheriff was at the hospital where his wife was recovering from a major surgery when he received a phone call that was supposedly from his electric company. They told the Sheriff that he was behind on his account and if he didn’t make a payment right then and there, the electric company was going to turn off his power in 30 to 45 minutes.

    Besides being concerned about his wife, the Sheriff was also worried about his dog who was at the house, and the Sheriff didn’t want his dog to fall victim to the extreme Carolina summer heat. With everything that was on his mind, the Sheriff gave the caller his credit card number to ensure that the power going to his home wouldn’t be turned off. It wasn’t until later when the Sheriff was able to gather his thoughts that he realized he had been scammed. He was able to cancel his credit card before the scammers could do anything with it. Thankfully, the Sheriff’s wife is said to be recovering nicely.

    The Sheriff went on to say that because the situation was so stressful, it made him vulnerable to the scam. He added that he’s been warning county residents for years about such scams and wanted his residents to learn from his mistakes and not fall for the scam.

    The majority of power companies in the United States, if not all of them, will not call you to threaten you with termination of service for failure to pay. You’ll receive written statements in the mail letting you know that your account is past due. In the case that someone is unfortunate enough not to be able to make payment, you’ll also receive a written statement letting you know when your power is scheduled to be turned off.

    Again, it only takes a moment for scammers to fool even the most wary of us. Even if it’s an extremely stressful situation, which scammers thrive on, try to take a moment to step back and logically assess the situation before making any kind of payment.

  • Geebo 8:15 am on July 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cuttoff scam, , shut off scam, ,   

    Smart meter scam threatens shut-off 

    Smart meter scam threatens shut-off

    By Greg Collier

    Duke Energy is one of the most prolific energy companies in the South. Recently, they warned their customers about a scam that has hit the Carolinas. Like most utility scams, the scammers threaten their victims over the phone with having their service turned off. The scammers are also asking for payment so that service won’t be shut off, but it’s not for delinquent payments. This time around, scammers are threatening people with having their power turned off if they don’t pay for a smart meter.

    A smart meter is an upgraded version of the old-fashioned electricity meter that’s on the side of most houses. The old version is the one that has dials, while the smart meter is digital. Smart meters can also relay your electricity usage to your power company without the need for meter readers coming to your home. Some power companies even have apps that connect to your smart reader so you can monitor electricity usage in your home. In some states, you can even opt out of having a smart meter if you have privacy concerns about them.

    The problem with this scam is that consumers typically don’t have to pay for smart meters if their power company is installing them for everybody. Unfortunately, not everybody knows that. However, like most utility scams, the power company is not going to call you and threaten you with terminating your service. In the vast majority of cases, the power company will send you a written notice if your service is to be terminated, and they’ll send it to you with plenty of advance warning. The same goes for smart meter installation. If your power company is installing them, they’ll be installing them for most if not all of your neighborhood. At the least, you’ll receive a door-hanger on your front door letting you know when the installations will start. But again, you don’t have to pay for it, and anybody who says you do is probably trying to scam you.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , shut off scam,   

    Scammers threaten to turn power off in winter 

    Scammers threaten to turn power off in winter

    By Greg Collier

    Just as Texas slowly starts a return to normal, the scammers there are pulling out all the stops while they still can. The latest scam to descend on Texas is not a new one, and it’s one that can be perpetrated in any state that has cold weather. Even though Spring may be less than a month away, scammers will try this trick as much as they can until then.

    Residents of Austin, Texas have been reporting that they have been receiving calls from scammers posing as their local power company. The scammers threaten to have the power turned off in 30 minutes if the customer’s ‘bill’ isn’t paid right now. With stories of Texans receiving outlandish power bills after power was restored to the state, we can see how this could be such an effective scam. While the report we saw doesn’t state it, we imagine the scammers are probably asking for payment through gift cards or prepaid debit cards.

    As usual, there are a few red flags that tip you off that this is a scam. First off, most utility companies won’t call you demanding a payment. Secondly, no legitimate business or agency is going to ask you for payment in gift cards. Scammers always try to get their victims to pay in some form of untraceable means and gift cards appear to be the most untraceable. Next, most utility companies will send you a notice in the mail if you are in danger of having your service disconnected, and they’ll give you plenty of notice and not just 30 minutes.

    As we stated previously, this scam appears in just about every state. Scammers will even perpetrate the scam during heat waves as well by trying to pressure their victims into believing they’ll lose the cooling in their home during the warmer months.

    If you receive one of these calls, just hang up. Don’t engage the scammer as they can use the smallest amounts of information they receive for possible future scams. If you want to be absolutely sure that the call was a scam, contact your local utility company, and they’ll be able to give you the current status of your account.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , shut off scam,   

    New twist on utility scam 

    New twist on utility scam

    Utility shut off scams are nothing new. It doesn’t matter what time of year is, scammers will try to convince you that your power is about to be shut off for non-payment. If that happens during warm weather, a lot of victims will think they’re about to lose their air conditioning among other necessities like TV and internet. if the scam happens in colder weather, a number of victims will think they’re about to lose their heat. Although, that scam can also apply to gas utilities as well.

    The scam works as other impersonation scams do. The scammer will pose as a local utility company. While they often pose as the power company, it’s not unheard of scammers posing as other utilities such as gas and water. The scammer will tell you that the victim is behind on payments and will threaten to have their service turned off in A short amount of time. The scammers will usually say anywhere between 10-30 minutes. The scammers will then pressure the victim into making an immediate payment demanding that payment be made through gift cards.

    More recently, a scammer or group of scammers have started a new version of the scam that adds extra pressure to victims into making immediate payments. These scammers have been posing as the victim they’re about to call and will call the utility company saying that there is a service issue. This way, an actual utility employee shows up at the home while the victim is on the line with the scammers. This makes it look like the utility employee is there to shut off service.

    If you still receive your bills through the mail, you’ll receive a written warning in the mail before your service is discontinued. If you use electronic billing, you would receive an email first. Let’s also not forget the first rule of looking out for scams. No legitimate business or agency will ask for payments in gift cards. Gift cards should only be used for the retailers they were intended for.

    If you think that one of your utilities is in danger of being shut off, contact that company through either the phone number on your bill or their website.

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