Beware of utility scams
November 3, 2016
Each year, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office receives calls from both individuals and businesses about utility shut-off scams. In this scam, a caller — pretending to represent a utility company — says the consumer’s power or heat will be shut off unless the consumer immediately sends money to the scammer using a wire transfer, prepaid money card, or gift card. In reality, the call is not coming from the consumer’s utility company.
Consumers can help protect themselves by following these tips:
- When in doubt, hang up. If a caller claims to represent your utility company but makes threats or demands immediate payment, hang up and call your utility company using a number you know to be legitimate, such as a number on your most recent statement.
- Don’t trust your caller ID. Callers can disguise the number that appears on your caller ID, making it very difficult to determine where a call is coming from; it may even appear to be coming from your utility company.
- Ask callers to identify themselves and provide written information. If they refuse, it is probably not a legitimate business.
- Know your rights. Natural gas and electric companies generally must give you a 14-day notice before disconnecting your service. Contact the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, www.puco.ohio.gov, to learn more and to compare electric or natural gas offers in your region.
- Beware of requests for prepaid money cards or gift cards. These are preferred payment methods for scammers.
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone.