Utility customers around Georgia are reporting a rash of scams designed to obtain personal information for illegal profit.
“Unfortunately, there are a number of scams going on right now that we need to warn utility customers about,” says Jackson EMC Director of Customer Service Brent Cochran. “We’ve had business customers reporting that people posing as the ‘the power company’ have threatened to turn off their power during business hours for allegedly unpaid bills unless they make a payment with a credit card. Similar contacts, some by phone and some in person, have occurred with residential customers.
We’re also hearing of another scam where customers are told that they have been awarded an ‘Obama Stimulus Package’ that will help pay their electric bill using a special check routing number and their Social Security number, as well as a scam that involves calls offering ‘free energy audits’ to get into customers’ homes. In at least one instance, the person was wearing a shirt with ‘Jackson EMC’ on it. All of these contacts are bogus and the intent is simply to defraud.”
While high temperatures may make people more susceptible to threats to turn off their power, Cochran has some simple advice for those who receive such contacts:
- If you receive a call, hang up and call the number on your utility bill; you’ll know you’re talking to a legitimate representative.
- If you receive a visit, tell the person that you’d prefer to call your utility company about the matter and close the door.
- If the person at your door says they represent ‘your power company,’ don’t look at the shirt – ask for an I.D. badge.
- If you’re provided with any information by the scammers, pass that information along to local law enforcement.
- If you feel threatened in any way, call local law enforcement immediately.
Cochran noted that neither Jackson EMC nor other utilities call customers and request personal information, such as Social Security and credit card numbers, over the phone. “If the contact is legitimate, you will be asked to go to your utility’s secure website or come to a payment location to handle any unpaid balance on your bill. And no utility will demand payment on the spot to avoid having your power cut off immediately,” he said.