Utility Scam Awareness Day: Tips on how to spot a scam

Northwest Florida

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Gulf Power and Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) have joined the national group Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) to recognize the sixth annual Utility Scam Awareness Day on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Utility Scam Awareness Day is an advocacy and awareness campaign focused on educating customers and exposing the tactics used by scammers. This year’s theme – “End the Call. End the Scam.” – focuses on utility impostor scam calls and the advanced tactics used to target customers. 

“Scammers have been opportunistic during the COVID-19 crisis, trying to take advantage of small businesses and our customers who are already enduring trying circumstances, and intensifying their activity with high-pressure tactics and increasing use of technology,” Gulf Power Vice President Mike Spoor said in a release. “If you feel something isn’t right, hang up the phone and take a moment to visit your account online or call us using the phone number located on your bill before responding to a demand for payment.”

Here are tips to protect yourself from falling victim to utility scams:  

Signs of potential scam activity

  • Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell a customer their utility bill is past due, and service will be disconnected—usually within an hour—if a payment is not made. 
  • Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct a customer to purchase a prepaid card, cryptocurrency or to send funds via a mobile app to make a bill payment.
  • Request for prepaid card: Customers are instructed to pay with a prepaid debit card. The impostor asks the for the prepaid card’s number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.

How customers can protect themselves

  • Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service interruption. Utility companies do not ask for a prepaid card and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill. 
  • If someone threatens immediate service interruption, customers should be aware. Customers with past due accounts receive multiple notices, typically by mail or email and in their regular monthly bill. 
  • If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email or shut the door. The utility should be contacted immediately at the number on the most recent monthly bill, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.

Visit www.utilitiesunited.org or GulfPower.com/scams for more information and tips on how customers can protect themselves.

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