Utility scams have been around for a long time, but fraudsters have changed their tactics since the COVID-19 pandemic. As consumers became more reliant on technology, scammers adapted their tactics.
Imposter scams are now the number one type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission. While scam artists still may come to your door in today’s more connected world, attempts are more likely to come through an electronic device, via email, phone, or text.
Common types of scams
Cutoff con: A scammer may claim you are overdue on your electric bill and threaten to disconnect your service if you don’t pay immediately. The scammers want to scare you into immediate payment, so you don’t have time to think clearly.
“If this happens over the phone, simply hang up and call us, especially if you are concerned about your bill,” says Daniel Gilfillan, manager of member services. “We never attempt to demand immediate payment after just one notice.”
If the scam is by email or text, Gilfillan advises deleting the message before taking any action. You can always contact Broad River Electric at (866) 687-2667 or use SmartHub to check the status of your account.
Refund rip-off: Some scammers falsely claim you have been overcharged on your bill and they want to give you a refund. All you have to do is click or press a button to initiate the process. If you proceed, you will be prompted to provide banking or other personal information. But, instead of money going into your bank account, the scammers can drain your account and use personal information such as a Social Security number for identity theft.
Gilfillan recommends that members hang up and block the phone number to prevent future robocalls. If this scam attempt occurs via email or by text, do not click any links. Instead, delete it, and if possible, block the sender.
“If you do overpay on your energy bill Broad River Electric will automatically apply the credit to your next billing cycle,” says Gilfillan. “When in doubt, contact us.”
Defend yourself: Be wary of calls or texts from unknown numbers and suspicious of an unknown person claiming to be a utility worker who requests banking or other personal information.
“Members can help create the first line of defense,” says Gilfillan. “Please report any potential scams to us so we can spread the word to prevent others in the community from falling victim.”