Utilities United Against Scams Day occurs in November, but the work of preventing utility scams is a year-round job.

Who Is It Targeting: Homeowners or renters with utility bills

What It Is: Utility scams attempting to coerce you into paying over the phone

What Are They After: Scammers posing as reps from your local utility company may be calling, informing you that your account is past due and your electricity, gas, phone or other utility will be shut off for failure to pay your bill. They will spare you the inconvenience if you agree to make a payment immediately over the phone or by prepaid debit card.

This scam is especially frightening as the temperatures drop, leaving you with the impression that your heat might be turned off. Also, the call volume might increase later in the week to alarm you into complying out of fear that your utility will be turned off over the weekend.

How You Can Avoid It:

  • If you receive a call like this from your utility company, even if your caller ID provides the correct name or number, do not comply. Take the caller’s name and hang up immediately, then contact your utility company yourself using a verified phone number.
  • Do not give the person who called any personal information, even to “verify” your account. He called you, remember? He should not need sensitive information like a credit card number or your Social Security number.
  • Utility companies will never demand payment over the phone or state that they’ll only accept payment via prepaid debit card. That’s a sure sign that something is amiss.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For full details of this scam check out this article from Forbes.