By Charlotte Lane, chairperson
West Virginia Public Service Commission
Nov. 16-20 is National Utility Scam Awareness Week and the Public Service Commission of West Virginia wants to help you recognize and avoid utility scams.
Many scammers see the current pandemic as a perfect opportunity to take advantage of people. Unfortunately, too many have fallen for these scams in recent months. Customers have received phone calls or emails with convincing graphics stating that a utility has made operational changes during the COVID pandemic or that utility employees are working from home, requiring them to call a different number to reach the company. Scammers may say your account is past due, that you need to pay the costs of a meter upgrade or that a recent payment was not received and needs to be made immediately. Scammers will often threaten to shut off your service and demand payment by cash or a prepaid debit card. Do not believe them.
There have even been accounts of people in fake utility company uniforms going door-to-door, claiming they are responding to reports that scammers are in your neighborhood. Do not let these people into your home. And don’t use a phone number on a business card they may give you. Check for a utility company issued employee ID and then call your utility on the number that is on your bill (not the phone number given to you at your door) and ask the utility representative to verify whether that employee is authorized to be at your home.
A scammer may also ask you for personal information. Never give your Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card number to anyone who initiates contact with you. That is a gateway to identity theft.
Remember, scammers only want one thing – your money. They can be very clever and convincing. Once your money is gone, it’s gone for good.
If you suspect you’ve been targeted by a scammer, contact your utility first, using the contact information on your bill, then report the activity to law enforcement. Please share this information with your friends and family and stay safe.