Utilities join to fight scammers, inform customers

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Utilities nationwide joined together Wednesday to mark Utility Scam Awareness Day and release tips on how customers can avoid common ruses involving service.

Georgia Power, Duke Energy, Atmos Energy and Pacific Gas & Electric were among many power providers who put out public service announcements on behalf of scam awareness.

"We're committed to protecting our customers' personal and account information every day, and also working to educate our customers about how we do business so that they can avoid scams," said Pedro Cherry, executive vice president of Customer Service and Operations for Georgia Power. "We actively work to identify new scams and fraud tactics and partner with law enforcement to prosecute those who try to take advantage of our customers."

The PSAs pointed out that scammers may use email, in-person or phone tactics to try and bilk customers and steal their money. The national Utility Scam Awareness Day was started last year as scamming seems to be on the rise.

Here’s a variety of tips put out by the utilities and other providers to help customers avoid getting ripped off.

·         Know that utilities do not demand payment in person at the customer’s home or business. If an account is past due, as Georgia Power noted, the customer will be contacted via a prerecorded message or by letter. Scammers will typically be aggressive and demand payment within an hour or so.

·         Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection. Utilities should never ask for a card number over the phone.

·         Do not allow someone claiming to be a utility employee into your home unless a previous appointment has been made.

·         Utility employees are usually easy to identify and wear an ID badge, wear a uniform and drive a company vehicle.

More than 100 utilities nationwide joined together to form Utilities United Against Scams last year. Other news reports indicate that the UUAS helped disconnect more than four dozen 1-800 numbers which tracked back to alleged scammers.

“The main reason for the coalition is for utilities to pool their efforts to magnify their reach to the public,” said Jared Lawrence, UUAS founder.

Scammers made more than 1 million calls on utility customers last year, giving particular focus to the elderly. Customers have been bilked out of billions of dollars worldwide due to the scams, according to reports.

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