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  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , utility assistamce, utility scam,   

    Heating assistance scam hits Midwest 

    By Greg Collier

    This past winter, Texas had a record-breaking winter storm that left most of the state unprepared for the damage that followed. However, Texas wasn’t the only state that was affected by the storm. Most of the Midwest was also caught up in the inclement winter weather that resulted in record cold snaps across the Great Plains. While most of the Midwest is more prepared for weather like this than Texas, it still resulted in higher than normal heating bills. Many Midwest residents are just now starting to receive these bills that many found to be astronomical. Leave it to the scammers to then try to take advantage of some already vulnerable residents.

    The State of Kansas has reported that many residents of the Sunflower State have received phone calls from scammers posing as the state government offering utility assistance. While the state does have programs that can help you with unusually high utility bills, the state does not call residents at random to offer the service. While there has not been a report of anyone falling for the scam, the state believes the calls are intended to steal your identity by asking for personal and financial information. People who are desperately trying to keep the gas or electricity on could be increasingly vulnerable to this scam.

    We’d like to remind our readers that just because a scam is happening in one state it could easily happen in your state as well. Government agencies normally don’t call residents out of the blue to offer financial assistance. Anybody who requires assistance would need to contact the state first. If you receive one of these phone calls, you’re asked to report it to the state along with the phone number that appeared on your caller ID and the name used by the phony state agent.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , utility 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 9:00 am on February 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ERCOT, , , utility scam,   

    Scammers take advantage of Texas power problem 

    Scammers take advantage of Texas power problem

    By Greg Collier

    Currently, most of the country is experiencing record-breaking cold weather. Probably the state that’s been the hardest hit by the below freezing temperatures is Texas. Millions of Texas residents have been without power for days now. The Texas power gird has been overworked since it’s easier to make a home 30 degrees cooler in the heat than it is to make a home 60 degrees warmer in the freezing cold. Many Texans are desperate to have their heat and power restored. Unfortunately, this leaves them vulnerable to scammers.

    The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is better know as ERCOT. ERCOT manages the power grid that supplies electricity to 90% of Texas. The Council has issued a warning about a scam that is currently preying on Texas residents.

    According to ERCOT, scammers have taken to social media posing as ERCOT telling residents that if they give their account numbers to the phony ERCOT social media accounts, residents will have their power restored. It’s unknown why scammers want the account numbers, however, with those account numbers, scammers can cause all sorts of havoc for the ERCOT customer.

    Meanwhile, reports from Houston are saying that scammers are impersonating utility employees to gain access to customer homes. Officials there say that no power utility employee will need to enter the home but may be by your outdoor power meter. They also suggest that real employees will drive a company marked vehicle and not an unmarked personal vehicle.

    With more winter storms supposedly headed to Texas, residents need to be on the lookout for these scams. Scammers love nothing more than a time of crisis and despair to try to take money, information of both from their victims.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , utility 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.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Appalachian Power Co., , smart meter, utility scam   

    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.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act, Paycheck Protection Program, , , utility scam   

    New scams targeting small businesses and the unemployed 

    New scams targeting small businesses and the unemployed

    It’s not just the coronavirus relief checks that scammers are targeting. They’re leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding new victims and they’re targeting some of the most vulnerable people among us during these uncertain economic times.

    In Maine, U.S. Senator Susan Collins is warning her constituents about a scam that is targeting small business owners. Many small businesses are seeking relief through the Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act. The Act was passed in order to help small businesses keep paying their employees during the current crisis. Scammers have been approaching small businesses telling them that they need to pay a fee in order to apply for a paycheck protection loan. That is incorrect. There is no cost to apply for the program. You can find more information about the Paycheck Protection Program at the website for the US Small Business Administration.

    Speaking of employees, the Better Business Bureau is warning that scammers are also targeting the unemployed. Many scammers are setting up phony websites designed to fool victims into thinking they’re applying for unemployment. In reality, the victims are just handing over their personal and financial information. The BBB recommends always looking for the green lock icon in your browser’s address bar to make sure you’re using a secure site. Also, most state government websites in the US end in .gov or .org.

    Lastly, we’ve seen more reports of scammers posing as utility companies threatening to shut off service. Most utility companies will not call you to tell you that service is being terminated. You should receive a warning in the mail before the service is terminated. Many utility companies across the country have suspended service terminations during the current crisis. If you have a concern about your service being terminated, call your utility company directly.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , utility scam   

    Scammers threaten to shut off your power 

    Scammers threaten to shut off your power

    Leave it to the con artists to leave no stone unturned during these difficult times. With economic uncertainty looming over the nation, scammers are once again trying to prey upon that fear to try to steal your money. With so many people losing their jobs either temporarily or permanently there are many among us who legitimately have to worry about paying their utilities. The scammers have taken it upon themselves to try to leverage this fear to their financial advantage.

    Scammers have been calling people posing as a local utility company. They’re sophisticated enough that when they call it looks like the call is actually coming from the utility companies. They’ll then threaten that service will be terminated if payment isn’t made right then and there. They’ll call many random numbers hoping to get the homes that are actually concerned about their service. The scammers will even try to pressure their victims into making a payment by saying that the service will be shut off within 30 minutes. This way they can get their victims into a panic and not have them take a moment to think about what’s really going on.

    The majority of utility companies will not call you to tell you that service is being terminated. They will send several notices in the mail before service is terminated. However, with the trying time that we’re all in right now, many utility companies have suspended terminating any services during the current crisis. If you are concerned about a vital service to your home being cut off, check with your local utility company to see if they have a grace period in effect currently.

    We’re all a little scared right now. We shouldn’t have to live in fear of these scammers. Hopefully, with the information we provide you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: impostor scam, , , , utility scam   

    Help protect seniors from scams 

    Help protect seniors from scams

    Today, we’re focusing on a number of scams that have targeted seniors recently.

    The first is what’s known as the tech support scam. In these cases, scammers will pose as tech companies telling seniors that they have viruses on their computers. Usually, the scammers will ask for remote access to your computer. They’ll then install malware on the computer and ask for your financial information as their payment. In a recent case in Florida, two suspects were allegedly pulling this scam and having their victims send thousands of dollars to the scammers under the guise of getting rid of a virus on the victim’s computer. They were able to scam $81,000 out of several seniors from across the country before they were caught. If anyone calls you to tell you that you have a virus, it’s always a scam.

    Not all scams against seniors are done over the phone or online. Many scammers are still posing as utility workers. Recently, in San Antonio, Texas a man posed as an AT&T employee. The man went to a senior woman’s home and offered her a deal for TV, internet, and cell service. The woman wrote out a check before finding out that the man did not work for AT&T. The man in question was even wearing an AT&T employee’s shirt. If you ever have any doubts about a utility worker approaching your home always ask to see their worker’s ID. If you’re still unsatisfied you can also call the company’s local office to verify their identity.

    Lastly, both the Federal Trade Commission and the AARP say that the most common scam perpetrated against seniors is the impostor scam. This is when scammers pose as a government agency such as the IRS or Social Security. The scammers will call you on the phone and try to pressure you into making some kind of payment over the phone, often through unusual means like gift cards or wiring the money. Both the FTC and the AARP are expecting scammers to take advantage of the 2020 census as well which we discussed here. If you did owe a government agency money or there was an issue with your Social Security benefits you would receive a letter and not a phone call.

    While you may not be vulnerable to these scams if you know someone who might be please share this post with them.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , utility scam   

    The secret shopper scam returns in time for Christmas 

    The secret shopper scam returns in time for Christmas

    Another potential scam that we see return around the holidays is the secret shopper scam. While many retail outlets do have positions for secret shoppers, there are more chances of you being scammed then getting a legitimate job. The Delaware State Police are warning that the scam has appeared in their area. Considering that Delaware has no sales tax, they are a prime target for such a scam. With most secret shopper scams, the scammers will either try to get you to pay a fee to become one. Or they’ll send you a phony check to deposit in your account then use it for shopping before wiring them back the balance. These are the hallmarks of a scam.

    In other scam news, police in Richland, Washington are warning that the rental scam is occurring in their area through Facebook Marketplace. The rental scam is one of the oldest online scams there is. The scammers will post a home or apartment for rent at a below-market rate. They’ll then try to get you to rent the property without seeing it and pressure you into wiring them a deposit. If you’re looking to rent a property, always be suspicious of any of these signs.

    Lastly, in Southern California, a water department there is warning customers about a company that is claiming their water is potentially contaminated. While the news article about the claims doesn’t mention it, this could potentially be a high-pressure way of trying to get residents to buy expensive equipment for their home that they may not need. Any company can put an official-sounding prefix in their name like American or National, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out to take your money.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: snow, , utility scam,   

    Con men use snowfall to try to fleece victims 

    Con men use snowfall to try to fleece victims

    Scammers are notorious for trying to take advantage of people after a natural disaster. One of the more common times this happens in the US is right after a hurricane. There are so many hurricane-related scams that they are almost a state of emergency themselves. But did you know scammers can use even seasonal weather occurrences to try and take money from unsuspecting victims? They do as one city in the Pacific Northwest recently found out.

    Recently, many western parts of the United States experienced an early snowfall. Some areas received just a light dusting while others experienced up to a foot of snow. Spokane, Washington got hit pretty good by the snow leading to many downed tree branches which can cause headaches for the city’s electrical infrastructure. Loss of power could mean loss of heat as well for many households. Scammers took advantage of this anxiety by posing as the local power company and calling residents to tell them that their power was in danger of being shut off if they did not pay a fee. One person who received one of these calls didn’t believe the call was legitimate and said that she was refusing to pay. She was then transferred to another person who claimed to be a manager.

    The power company in Spokane said that they always send out paper notices through the mail before terminating someone’s service. That probably goes for most utility providers as well. If you receive a call like this no matter where you live, hang up and call your local utility company to make sure that your account is actually in good standing. And while it’s not mentioned in this particualr story, never make any payments over the phone using any kind of gift card as this is almost guaranteed to be part of a scam.

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