Fall is here and winter is right around the corner. With days getting shorter and temperatures dropping, you may notice an increase in your utility bills. It's important to familiarize yourself with your usual gas, electric and water bills so you aren't deceived by crooks. Be aware of these two common ways in which con artists carry out utility-related scams:
Impersonation over the phone. Posing as utility company representatives, scammers call you in the dead of winter, threatening to shut off your power unless you pay an overdue bill immediately. Using fear tactics to get what they want, they aggressively demand your bank account number, credit card number or other forms of payment like prepaid gift cards, cryptocurrencies and wire transfers. They might even claim you have overpaid a bill and need your information to send you a refund. As a safety precaution, confirm the status of your account before sharing any personal information. You can do this by logging into your account online or by calling the company's customer service number from your bill.
Impersonation at your front door. Posing as utility workers or contractors, scammers claim they are there to replace, reset or repair utility-related devices. Others impersonate legitimate door-to-door sales representatives pitching fake, energy-saving plans or equipment upgrades. If someone comes to your door, notice if they are wearing an official uniform or clothing with a logo or badge. Search for their employer online to make sure it's not a fake company and ask for their employee number or badge.
Scammers generally target senior citizens and non-native English speakers, but anyone can become a victim. If you suspect you've been scammed or that someone is trying to rip you off, report the incident to your utility company as well as the FTC-and don't forget to share the information with your neighbors!