According to Washington County Deputy Sheriff Brent Miller, one Washington County Business was scammed today out of $700 by someone on the phone pretending to be from Duke Energy collecting a late utility bill.
Miller said to not give out any information over the phone until you have verified the identify of the person or organization who is calling you.
In this case, it was very difficult to tell if the phone call was real or fake.
Duke Energy has learned that customers in five states – including Indiana – have been targeted by scam artists claiming to represent the company.
Phone, doorstep and email scammers claiming to be a utility company are nothing new – it happens to all utility companies throughout the U.S. and Canada. However, complaints about this particular scam have DOUBLED this year, according to Duke Energy.
Scammers are calling residents and impersonating utility company staff, claiming to be collecting on late bills.
In this case, Miller said a local business was contacted and told they would have their electric service cut off immediately if the bill was not paid.
“They were instructed to go to a local store and purchase a pre-paid debit card and call back and give the Debit Card information over the phone,” said Miller. “That’s never a good idea, but it was during a busy time at this business and they did not want to have their electric service disrupted.”
Miller said the business realized they had already mailed in a check for this month’s bill and was told over the phone that they would have the check returned after they paid over the phone.
“It was very convincing,” said Miller. “This was very professional. The timing of the scam was perfect…one of the better ones out there.”
Duke noted that scammers may even falsify their caller ID information to make it appear as though the call is coming from Duke Energy.
“The business owner said when they called back they heard a Duke Energy recording and believed this was really Duke they were dealing with,” said Miller.
According to Duke, the most popular targets recently have been small businesses, Spanish-speaking customers and Spanish-speaking business owners.
Because Duke Energy does occasionally contact their customers by phone, it can be difficult to tell a scammer from a real Duke Energy employee.
Here are some tips:
- If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card, this is a red flag. Prepaid debit cards are like cash and the transactions cannot be reversed.
- If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call us at the number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real Duke Energy representative.
Stay tune for more details on this incident over the weekend and listen to WSLM RADIO for more details.