Utility scammers up their game

RALEIGH, NC (September 28, 2016)…In this scam, crooks pretend to represent an electric or gas utility company. They threaten to cut off your utility service unless allegedly overdue bills are paid immediately. And they’re at it again, calling individuals and businesses across North Carolina.

Now they’re taking extra steps to convince you that their call is legitimate by manipulating Caller ID (to make it look like they really are calling from Duke Energy), by transferring you to speak to a “supervisor” during the call, and even by playing music for you while you’re on hold.

Victims are sometimes instructed to send their payment by wire. But increasingly they’re told to deposit money into a specific account, or to put funds on a prepaid debit card or gift card and then call back to provide the card number.

Most people see through the scam, but some don’t. An eastern North Carolina homeowner lost more than $500 recently while a Charlotte resident lost almost $2,000, both via gift cards. A small business in the Triangle area sent more than $1,000 by wire, and another lost $2,200 via prepaid cards.

If you get a call threatening to cut off your power if you don’t pay:
• Don’t send or transfer any money to the callers.
• If you believe you may really owe money on your utility bill, hang up and call your utility directly, using a phone number from a recent bill or the company’s website.
• Remember that real utility companies won’t use these methods to try to collect overdue accounts or cut off your service on such short notice.

If you believe you’ve fallen for a utility cut-off scam, call our office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free in NC or by file a complaint online at ncdoj.gov.