LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Duke Energy is helping educate customers against fraud on Utility Scam Awareness Day on Wednesday.
The fifth annual awareness day was created by Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), comprised of nearly 150 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas companies and their respective trade associations.
Duke Energy said more scam attempts are increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the company to release important information for customers to know what to look for.
Some common tactics for scammers include:
- Threatening to disconnect service - 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.
- Requesting for immediate payment - Scammers might 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 or payment through certain mobile apps - Customers are instructed to pay with a prepaid debit card. The impostor asks for the prepaid card’s number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds. More recently, customers have also been instructed to send a payment through a mobile app. Duke Energy currently does not accept payments through the Cash App, Venmo or Zelle apps. However, customers can make payments on Duke Energy’s mobile app available in the Apple App Store for iOS and the Google Play Store for Android.
- Personal information - During the COVID-19 crisis, criminals are promising to mail refund checks for overpayments on their accounts if they can confirm their personal data, including birthdays and, in some cases, Social Security numbers. Duke Energy will apply refunds as a credit to customers' accounts and will not contact customers to verify personal information by phone, email or in person in order to mail a check.
- Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service interruption. Utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including online payments, phone payments, automatic bank drafts, mail, or in person.
- If someone threatens immediate service interruption, customers should be aware. Customers with past due accounts receive multiple advanced notices, typically by mail and in their regular monthly bill. Utilities will never notify of a disconnection in one hour or less.
- 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 or on the utility’s official website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 9-1-1.
Although impostors continue to target utility customers, UUAS members and partners said they have succeeded in taking nearly 9,400 scam telephone numbers out of operation.