5 things you can do to avoid utility scams

Scammers are targeting both businesses and homeowners by impersonating utility companies. Typically, fraudsters impersonating water, electric and gas company representatives call to say that a payment is overdue and that your water, gas or electric will be shut off unless you pay the “past due bill” immediately. If you get a call like this:

1. Do not trust caller ID, even if it shows the name of a legitimate company. Scammers know how to “spoof” caller ID to make it read what they want it to.

2. Do not call a number that an unverified or unsolicited caller gives you. Use the number on your paper bill or found on the company’s website. If you are concerned about billing, contact your utility company directly.

3. Never give out sensitive personal and banking information over the phone to an unverified or unsolicited caller. Only give out information if you place a call to a company phone number that you know for sure is legitimate. Scammers also can use intimidation tactics to get you to provide them with information. Do not fall for it.

4. Never pay by gift card, cash reload card, wiring money or cryptocurrency. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, legitimate companies do not demand one specific method of payment; and they do not generally accept gift cards (like iTunes or Amazon), cash reload cards (like MoneyPak, Vanilla, or Reloadit) or cryptocurrency (like bitcoin) to pay bills.

5. Report the scam to the FTC and the real utility company that’s being impersonated. If you paid a scammer already, tell the payment provider — such as the wire transfer or gift card company. You may not get your money back but reporting it can help stop others from getting scammed too.

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