Beware of Utility Shut-Off Scams

With most of Alabama reaching lower than normal temperatures over the past few weeks, keeping your heat on is a necessity. Although temperatures are warming this week, winter is far from over. No matter the season, it is crucial to keep the power on – which is why scammers are taking advantage of this basic but essential need.

Here’s How the Scam Unfolds

A consumer receives a call from their local utility company claiming the person is behind on their electric bill and threatens to turn off the power if the balance is not paid immediately. The scammer then demands the consumer pay the money owed over the phone via debit card or wire transfer. Once the money has been paid, the scammer makes off with the debit card information to make further purchases. If wire transfer is made, the consumer has no hope of recovering the money.

Consider the following tips to avoid a utility scam:

  • Electric companies aren’t the only utilities that scammers impersonate. Watch out for variations involving water, gas, and cable companies.
  • Prepaid debit cards are a red flag. If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, this is a huge warning sign. Hang up! Your utility company will only accept a check, credit card or online banking transfer.
  • Don’t cave to pressure to pay immediately. If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative and can confirm the status of your account.
  • Beware of spoofing. Keep in mind that utility imposters are also known to “spoof” caller ID by disguising their own phone number and replacing it with the phone number of a legitimate business.

If confronted with a call of this sort, the best practice is to hang up the phone and call your provider directly. The best number to call to verify legitimacy is the number listed on your bill.

Source: BBB of North Alabama and Press Publications

To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to