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  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 17, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , parole scam, , shut off scam   

    Scam Round Up: Lost pet scam and more 

    Scam Round Up: Lost pet scam and more

    By Greg Collier

    Our first story is a reminder about the shut-off scam. With the cold weather starting to descend on the country, shut-off scammers have ramped up their efforts. It’s gotten to the point where several major utility companies across the nation have warned their customers about it.

    The shut-off scam is when the scammers pose as your local utility company and threaten to shut off your service that day without an immediate payment. When the temperature drops, this can become a matter of survival for many, so they end up paying the scammers.

    Utility providers, such as electricity and gas companies, refrain from contacting customers directly and provide only a day’s notice before discontinuing services—a clear warning sign. Normally, these companies issue multiple warnings via mail before service termination. Additionally, legitimate utility companies never request payments in the form of gift cards, cryptocurrency, or through payment apps like Zelle and Venmo.


    Another scam that is targeting families with incarcerated loved ones involves fraudulent calls claiming to be from the Georgia Parole Board. Families have reported scammers requesting money for the release of their family member, asserting that funds are needed for an ankle monitor before the inmate can be released.

    One family recently lost $2300 to scammers thinking their son was being paroled. They paid the scammer through Cash App. Like police departments, parole boards will never ask for money, and especially not through Cash App.

    The Georgia Parole Board has issued a warning, emphasizing that they never make calls to families soliciting money. Residents of Georgia are urged to verify the current parole status of their family member by checking the official parole board website before taking any action.


    A woman from Tucson, Arizona, was warning her community after she lost her cat. Scammers called her posing as her local animal shelter. The scammers told her they had her cat, but she would need to pay to get her cat back. Then they told her that their computers were down, and they would send her a link where she would need to pay.

    Thankfully, she was suspicious and called her local shelter, who informed her they did not have her cat and the caller was a scammer.

    Ensure the safety of your pet by following these crucial steps. First and foremost, take your pet to the veterinarian to have them microchipped, which significantly enhances the chances of reuniting with them if they happen to wander off. When creating fliers or social media posts to find your lost pet, it’s wise to use your email address instead of your phone number to avoid potential exposure to scammers seeking to exploit your personal information. If someone claims to have found your pet, request a photograph as proof. Exercise caution if they then ask for money transfers or gift cards, as this is a clear indication of a scam attempt.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 2, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , shut off scam,   

    New utility scam promises refund 

    New utility scam promises refund

    By Greg Collier

    Normally, when someone hears about a utility company scam, they may think about the shut-off scam. This is when scammers call their victims posing as the local power, water, or heating company. The victim is told they’re behind payments on their account, and their service will be terminated in 15–30 minutes if they don’t make a payment over the phone. Scammers will typically demand payment in nontraditional methods that are difficult to trace, like gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. Now, there’s a utility scam that’s trying to fool victims with honey instead of vinegar, so to speak.

    Reports out of Upstate New York say scammers are now calling their victims, but instead of threatening them with a blackout, they’re promising them a payday. The victims are being told they overpaid their last bill and are now due a refund. But, as always, whatever payment amount the scammers are offering pales in comparison to the financial damage that could happen to victims. The scammers will tell their victims in order to receive the refund, the victim will need to provide their credit/debut card number or their checking account information. If a victim were to provide this information to a scammer, they could find their bank account depleted and their identity stolen.

    Most companies wouldn’t go out of their way to call a customer to let them know they have a refund due. In most cases, especially where utilities are concerned, if someone has overpaid their balance, the company won’t notify the customer until the next month’s statement goes out. Sometimes the credit will be applied to the next month’s balance, or will show up as a negative balance on the monthly bill.

    The same goes for the shut-off scam. If someone were to be behind on their account where they’re in danger of having their service terminated, they’ll be warned by mail first. That mailing will also contain the date when services are scheduled to be turned off.

    If you receive calls from someone claiming to be from your local utility, and they’re either threatening to shut-off service, or promising you a refund, hang up, and call your utility company at the number listed on the monthly statement.

    You may also want to routinely check your utility company’s website, as many of them will have warnings about local utility scams.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 2, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , shut off scam,   

    Record heatwave brings out shut off scams 

    By Greg Collier

    With most of the country experiencing record-breaking heatwaves, we probably don’t have to tell you that 2023 is on its way to being the hottest year in recorded history. So, leave it to the scammers to use the sweltering heat to intimidate their victims into giving them money. While shut-off scams are common during this time of year, scammers are now packing a one-two punch of shut-off scams.

    Shut off scams typically depend on weather extremes. They tend to hit during blizzards and cold snaps, or punishing heatwaves. In the shut-off scam, scammers will pose as the power company when calling their victims. The scammers threaten their victims with having their electric service terminated for a past due balance. Victims are then told their service will be turned off in 15-30 minutes if a payment isn’t made immediately. Scammers will ask for payment in unusual means such as gift cards, but we’ve seen instances where victims are directed to make payment at Bitcoin ATMs.

    However, this summer we’re seeing another shut-off scam in addition to the power shut-off scam. Scammers are also posing as the local water company while threatening to shut off service. Being threatened with having your water turned off may even be more intimidating than having your electricity turned off. Then again, some homes can’t even have their water function without electricity. So, either way, this scam could be a nightmare for any consumer.

    It’s easy to protect yourself from this scam if you know about it. Utility companies, such as power and water, never call their customers and only give them a 15-minute warning before service is terminated. That should be the first red flag. Typically, utility companies will send several warnings in the mail before terminating service. Secondly, utility companies will never have you make payments to them in gift cards, cryptocurrency, or payment apps like Zelle and Venmo.

    If you receive a phone call like this, hang up. Don’t give the caller any personal information, even if they seem to know who you are. Then call your local utility to verify your account is in good standing.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 1, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: medical equipment, , shut off scam,   

    Shut-off scam targets man on medical equipment 

    Shut-off scam targets man on medical equipment

    By Greg Collier

    The shut-off scam is when scammers pose as your power company and threaten to shut off your electricity, although it can be used with other utilities. Typically, a scammer will call their victim to tell them that the victim’s account is behind in payment, and someone will be there in 15 minutes to disconnect the power. To prevent termination of service, the scammers will ask for immediate payment in unorthodox ways, such as gift cards and cryptocurrency. While the shut-off scam can occur during any time of the year, it’s most common in the winter and summer months. That’s because most victims would be in fear of losing the heating or cooling in their home.

    However, one man targeted in this scam is a lot more dependent on his home’s electricity than most of us. The New Hampshire man recently had heart surgery. As part of his recovery, he’s being monitored at home by his doctors through a piece of equipment that’s connected to a combination pacemaker and defibrillator. If something were to go wrong with the man’s heart, doctors could attempt to treat him remotely. The problem with that is if the power is out, the monitor won’t work.

    So imagine this man’s terror when being told his power is being shut off for an unpaid bill. The caller ID on his phone even displayed the name and phone number of his power company.

    There was no word in the report if the man fell victim to the scam.

    People like this man who are dependent on the electricity in their home for medical reasons could be a gold mine to shut-off scammers. Of course, the scammers don’t care if victim’s like this live or die, as long as they get their payment.

    Please keep in mind, utility companies will not call you to threaten you with a termination of service. If someone were to fall behind in their account, they would receive a notice in the mail. If termination of services is in the cards for someone, the utility company typically gives a few days if not weeks for the customer to make arrangements.

    If you receive a call like this, hang up and call your utility provider at the customer service number on their statement.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on March 9, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , shut off scam,   

    Scammers are hyper-focused on local issues 

    Scammers are hyper-focused on local issues

    By Greg Collier

    Whenever there’s a national crisis or a disaster that garners national headlines, you can bet that the scammers will come out of the woodwork. Some scammers even pop up for international matters too, like the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. If we listed all the scams they usually perpetrate during such times, we’d be here all day. But it’s not just national and international matters that the scammers are tuned into. If there’s an issue in your town that people can take advantage of, they will.

    For example, in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, their local power company is having a bit of a PR nightmare with their customer billing. At least 19,000 customers of Memphis Light Gas and Water have not received a bill in months. MLGW had installed digital meters for their customers, but water from the winter storms got into some of the meters, causing the readings to go haywire. MLGW is trying to get the customers’ bills corrected, but in the confusion, scammers have stepped in.

    This was a perfect storm of opportunity for scammers to employ the shut-off scam. The utility shut-off scam is a type of fraud where scammers impersonate representatives from a utility company, such as an electricity or gas company, and threaten to disconnect the victim’s service if they do not immediately pay a supposed outstanding balance. Since MLGW controls power, gas, and water, the scammers really had their victims over a barrel. One MLGW customer was threatened with shut-off by the scammers and ended up wiring $3,000 to the scammers.

    Utility companies, no matter how big or small, do not threaten immediate termination of service over the phone. If your account is behind, you’ll receive several warnings in the mail before service is terminated. You should even be notified of the day when services will be scheduled to be terminated.

    If you receive one of these phone calls, hang up the phone, and verify the legitimacy of any communication from a utility company by calling the company directly using a number that is listed on their official website or on the back of a bill. Also, please keep in mind that utility companies will typically never demand immediate payment using untraceable methods like wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or payment apps. They will usually offer payment plans or other forms of assistance to help customers who may be behind on their account.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , shut off scam,   

    Power company CEO almost falls for shut-off scam 

    Power company CEO almost falls for shut-off scam

    By Greg Collier

    The holiday season is probably one of the worst times to be preyed upon by shut-off scammers. Not only is most of the country starting to experience much colder weather, but many of us have a lot on our minds. These are two situations shut-off scammers are hoping to find their victims in.

    In case you’re not familiar with the shut-off scam, this is when scammers call you posing as your local power company. The scammers will say that you’re behind in your bills, and your power will be shut off in 15 minutes. They’re hoping you’ll panic and make a payment to them, usually through some untraceable means like gift cards or cryptocurrency.

    Recently, in San Diego, shut-off scammers unknowingly called the CEO of the local gas and electric company. Posing as representatives of the CEO’s company, they told the CEO there was an issue with his bill, and that his service was in danger of being terminated. The CEO told the phony customer service rep his bill is normally deducted from his bank account.

    According to the CEO, the scammers were ready for that response. They told him this was a problem they were running into and plenty of other customers were saying the same thing. The scammer may have tipped their hand when they told the CEO they could go into his bank account and help him correct the situation. The CEO hung up on the caller and called the actual customer service department of his company, who told him it was a scam. He was even taken aback over how much information the scammers had about not only him, but other members of his family as well.

    We often say that anybody can fall for a scam, regardless of socioeconomic status or education level. Here we had a successful CEO who almost got taken by scammers posing as his own employees.

    But getting back to the scam itself, utility companies don’t threaten customers with termination of service by only giving them a 15-minute warning. If, for some reason, you were to be behind in your account, you would receive a written warning in the mail notifying you of the termination date. Typically, the utilities will give you enough time to try to make some kind of payment arrangement.

    If you receive a call like this that threatens to turn off your service, hang up and call the number to the utility company listed on your bill. This will allow you to not only check the status of your account, but will also warn them about the scam.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 13, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blackouts, , shut off scam, ,   

    Scammers take advantage of rolling blackouts 

    By Greg Collier

    Many areas in the western part of the US are either dealing with wildfires or they’re trying to prevent them. This often requires power companies to schedule rolling blackouts to try to ensure that power infrastructure doesn’t exacerbate the problem. The power companies notify their customers when these outages are scheduled to take place, but not every customer gets the message, unfortunately.

    This has led to a dramatic increase in the shut-off scam. This is when scammers will call their victims, posing as the power company. They’ll tell the victims that they’re behind in their payments and their service will be shut off in 30 minutes. The scammers will then demand payment in largely untraceable means, such as gift cards, cryptocurrency, or payments through apps like Zelle and Venmo.

    Now, scammers are using the rolling blackouts to prove to customers that their power is actually being terminated. If the power were to stop working while a scammer was on the phone with their victim, that could lead the victim into making a panic payment.

    If you live in an area dealing with wildfires or is in danger of wildfires, keep an eye on your local news or your power company’s website. This way, you’ll be better prepared if a rolling blackout affects your area.

    But at the end of the day, this is the usual shut-off scam, just with better timing. Your utility companies will never call you and threaten you with service termination. If your account balance is behind, you would receive a notice in the mail about any scheduled termination. Also, utility companies will never ask for payment in non-traditional means like cryptocurrency.

    If you receive a call like this, or even have someone show up at your home claiming to be a power company employee, call the power company directly at the phone number on your statement. No legitimate utility is ever only going to give you 30 minutes notice before shutting off your service.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 13, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , shut off scam,   

    New twist on shut-off scam 

    New twist on shut-off scam

    By Greg Collier

    The shut-off scam has increased in number during the summer months, especially in hotter areas of the country. The scam starts when a scammer calls a victim, posing as the local power company. The scammer tells the victim that thy’re behind on their power bill. If the victim doesn’t make a payment right then and there, their power service will be terminated in 15-30 minutes.

    Not wanting to have their power turned off in this sweltering heat, victims typically pay the scammer through gift cards. The victim is instructed to go to a store to buy gift cards before giving the card numbers to the scammers as payment. More recently, scammers have been instructing their victims to send their money through Bitcoin ATMs. In both cases, the victim’s money is virtually unrecoverable.

    Now, a city in Florida has had to deal with a new variation of the shut-off scam. In Kissimmee, Florida, residents there started receiving text messages that claimed to be from the local power company. Again, the victims were threatened with service termination if they didn’t make an immediate payment. However, instead of asking for payment in gift cards or cryptocurrency, the scammers sent a bar code in the text message. If the bar code is scanned at certain stores, the victim sends the money to the scammer’s PayPal or bank account. Some victims lost as much as $4000.

    While we all may be more connected than we’ve ever been, utility companies still stick to more tried and trusted ways when it comes to communicating with customers. If a utility account is in arrears, the utility company will send out written warnings in the mail rather than phone calls or text messages. Also, no legitimate company or agency will ask for payment in gift cards, cryptocurrency, or bar codes that can be scanned from your phone.

    If you receive one of these calls or messages, call your utility company directly to verify that it’s a scam.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 22, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: electric company, , , shut off scam,   

    Scams rise with temperature 

    Scams rise with temperature

    By Greg Collier

    With many areas around the country experiencing lengthy heatwaves, there’s been an increase in utility or shut-off scams. The shut-off scam has been rather popular with scammers the past couple of years, but these scams increase in frequency during the cold of winter and the height of summer. That’s because this scam relies on their victims having the fear of losing their heating or cooling during extreme weather conditions, such as the current heatwaves.

    The way the scam typically works is the scammer will call the victim posing as their local power company. The scammer will say that the victim is delinquent in their payment, and if the victim doesn’t make an immediate payment, the power will be turned off in a matter of minutes. Previously, we have seen reports of scammers demanding payment in gift cards, prepaid debit cards, and cryptocurrency. That’s because these forms of payment are largely untraceable.

    Recently, the state of North Carolina has reported an upswing in the shut-off scam. If you’ve never been to North Carolina, the state experiences brutal summers with oppressive humidity almost every year. Scammers there have been posing as Duke Energy, which is one of the largest power companies in the country. With many fearing they’ll lose their air conditioning, the scam has been able to find a number of victims. While losses to this scam are usually in the hundreds of dollars, that money could be all that victim has to feed their family or pay other bills.

    As with many scams, it only takes a little bit of knowledge to prevent yourself from being taken advantage of. In this case, it’s the fact that utility companies will not call you about a delinquent bill. Instead, you’ll receive a notice in the mail stating your account is in arrears. If the power were to be shut off, you would receive a written warning of that date as well. And as always, no legitimate business is going to ask for payment in non-traditional ways such as gift cards, cryptocurrency, or apps like Venmo and Zelle.

    If you receive one of these calls, hang up and call your power company to make certain your account is in good standing. Then call your local police to let them know this scam is in your area.

  • 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.

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