When Greg Irving received a call from a Kansas telephone number and was told he had an outstanding utility bill, he didn’t believe it. But the caller was persistent, and the Great Bend man reluctantly provided his debit card number rather than go without air conditioning.
“They said my electricity was going to be shut off within 72 hours if I didn’t pay my bill,” he said.
A short time later he thought better of his decision and checked with Wheatland Electric and his bank. The call was a scam, but he was able to stop the payment from going through.
Irving isn’t the only Wheatland customer to receive a call from someone pretending to represent the utility. On June 23, Wheatland posted this warning:
“We often receive reports from our members about fraudulent phone calls (from both real live callers and automated messages) that claim their power will be disconnected if they do not provide their payment information immediately.
“At Wheatland, we NEVER call members directly asking for payment. In the event of a delinquency, notices are made only by mail or email (if you’re signed up through SmartHub). ... As always, if you have questions or need to discuss your account, contact your local Wheatland office today.”
The Federal Trade Commission has warned consumers for years to empower themselves against utility scams. Scammers may pretend to be from an organization your know. Here are some warning signs of a utility scam:
Here are some warning signs of a utility scam:
• If you know you already paid, stop. Even if the caller insists you have a past due bill. That’s a big red flag.
• Never give out your banking information by email or phone. 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.
• Did the caller demand payment by gift card, cash reload card, wiring money or cryptocurrency? Don’t do it. Legitimate companies don’t demand one specific method of payment. And they don’t generally accept gift cards (like iTunes or Amazon), cash reload cards (like MoneyPak, Vanilla, or Reloadit), or cryptocurrency (like bitcoin).