The coronavirus pandemic has caused millions of people to lose their jobs and many are struggling to make ends meet, including paying their utility bills. With economic turmoil comes scammers ready to take advantage of heightened anxiety and to prey on individuals when they are the most vulnerable.
Recently, scammers have been posing as employees and representatives from utility companies, telling individuals that if they don’t pay their utility bills, their power will be terminated. By threatening to turn off power, they scare people into giving them credit card or other financial information over the telephone.
It has been such a problem that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a warning to consumers this week.
The FTC provides tips on how to respond when someone posing as a caller from the utility contacts you:
- “Thank the caller for the information. Then firmly tell them you will contact the utility company directly using the number on your bill or on the company’s website.
- Even if the caller insists you have a past due bill or your services will be shut off, never give banking information over the phone unless you place the call to a number you know is legitimate.
- Utility companies don’t demand banking information by email or phone. And they won’t force you to pay by phone as your only option.
- If the caller demands payment by gift card, cash reload card, wiring money or cryptocurrency, it is a scam. Legitimate companies don’t demand payment by gift cards (like iTunes or Amazon), cash reload cards (like MoneyPak, Vanilla, or Reloadit), or cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin).
- Tell your friends and loved ones about the scam so they can protect themselves. If you got this scam call, others in your community probably did to. We know when people hear about scams, they’re much more likely to avoid them.
Tell the FTC. Your reports help the FTC and our law enforcement partners stop scammers.”