By Abby Berry
Every day, millions of Americans are targeted by scammers through phone calls, emails, text messages, online or in person. Scammers’ tactics can change daily, which is why it’s important for consumers to stay on top of the latest scam reports from local and national news outlets, as well as your local utility companies.
Some phone scams involve scammers demanding immediate payment and threatening to shut off power if money is not received. Remember, your electric coooperative will never call you and demand immediate payment without notice.
We want you to be aware of two trending scam tactics. One is the overpayment trick, where a scammer contacts you and claims that you have overpaid your utility bill. The scammer will say they need your personal banking information to deposit the credit back to your checking account. Don’t fall for this scam! Another trending scam is smishing (short for SMS phishing). Many consumers know to watch out for suspicious emails, but we tend to trust text messages sent to our smartphones. Always question suspicious texts, especially from someone claiming to represent a utility. These are just a couple examples of trending scams, so it’s important to watch for any red flags.
Here are a few reminders on how to take control of the situation when you’ve been targeted by a scammer:
- Take your time. Utility scammers try to create a sense of urgency so that you’ll act fast and hand over personal information, especially over the phone. Take a moment to think about the situation before acting.
- Be suspicious. Scammers typically request immediate payments through prepaid debit cards or third-party apps. Unusual requests like this should raise red flags. Remember, if the request seems strange and out of the ordinary, you’re likely being targeted by a scammer.
- Confirm before you act. If you’re contacted by someone claiming to represent a utility but you’re unsure, just hang up the phone and call the that utility directly.
Our increasingly connected world provides scammers with more opportunities to connect with unsuspecting consumers. Be vigilant, and please report any utility scams to your electric cooperative so other is the community can be alerted. Together, we can help prevent our friends and neighbors from being victimized.
Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56% of the nation’s landscape.