The holiday season is a time for goodwill and kindness, and spending time with family and loved ones. Unfortunately, all that good cheer makes it a perfect time for scammers to prey on unsuspecting victims. And while it is the season of giving, Gulf Power reminds customers not to give out any personal information to any unidentified callers or let any unannounced visitors into their home

“Unfortunately, the holiday season sometimes makes for increased opportunities for fraudsters, who like to make the most of the festive season by coming up with even more ingenious ways to target consumers during the holidays,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson. “We’ve seen a slight increase of scam activity in our service territory, so we want our customers to be aware that scammers don’t take a holiday.”

WATCH how to spot a scam
SCAM resources

According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers can be very convincing and often target those who are most vulnerable, including those dealing with hurricane damage, senior citizens, low-income communities, and those whose second language is English. For utility customers, the scam involves residential and business customers being told their energy bill is past due and that their power will be cut off if the customer does not provide a credit card payment or other forms of immediate payment.

“Most customers recognize these calls as scams,” added DelaHaya. “If you have any doubts about a caller’s identity, don’t give them any information and call our Customer Care representatives immediately. If we do visit a customer’s home or business, all Gulf Power representatives carry badges with picture identification that includes the employee’s name and the company’s name and logo.”

Spot a scam:

  • Gulf Power will not show up to a customer’s home or business to collect on a payment. If an account becomes past due and is subject to disconnection, Gulf Power will contact the customer via a prerecorded message to the primary account telephone and by letter requesting that the customer call Gulf Power to discuss the account. The company will never go door-to-door asking for payment.
  • Beware of calls and emails demanding immediate payment. Customers have reported that scammers will call, usually in a very aggressive tone, requesting for payment through a credit card, pre-paid debit card or gift card. Gulf Power will never ask for any form of payment over the phone or through email. If a customer receives a suspicious call or email from someone claiming to be from Gulf Power and demanding payment to avoid disconnection, they should hang up, delete the email and contact the company’s customer service line at 1-800-225-5797.
  • Gulf Power employees are easy to identify.If a Gulf Power employee has a service-related reason to visit a home or business, customers will in most cases receive notice of the visit beforehand and the employee will always be wearing a Gulf Power employee ID badge with their photo, company’s name and logo.
  • Gulf Power employees or contractors may show up without advance notice for the following situations:Lineworkers making repairs or contractors conducting tree trimming, surveying, testing or meter work along with other services such as installing new underground and overhead lines. If they do come to your home or business, ask them for identification or ask to see their supervisor who should have a Gulf Power contractors’ badge. When in doubt, customers can verify the contractor by calling Gulf Power customer service at 1-800-225-5797.

Stop a scam: 

  • Don’t make an immediate payment.Customers should never share their credit card or debit card information or purchase a prepaid card or gift card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. The company will not ask customers to pay anywhere other than an Authorized Payment Location.
  • Verify the payment request.If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email or shut the door. To verify the payment request, contact Gulf Power customer service at 1-800-225-5797.
  • Report the scam.If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, shut the door and call Gulf Power’s customer service phone number. Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, should contact local law enforcement authorities.

Also, don’t let the Grinch ruin your holiday by sneaking away with packages delivered to your doorsteps.  Packages and front doors aren’t the only thing targeted by scammers and thieves, they also target our email inboxes, social media feeds, websites and even cell phones.

The Better Business Bureau offers these top tips for consumers:

  • Fake Amazon, FedEx or UPS delivery notices – They show up in your email, and claim you have a package waiting, or a problem with your delivery. Even if you are expecting a delivery, you need to be very suspicious, and check the URL of the email sender to make sure they are really that business.
  • Phishing Scams— Be it Amazon, Best Buy, PayPal, eBay or more, phishing scams look to fool email users into believing there is unauthorized access to their account, or simply there might be an issue they need to address — like an order that isn’t properly going through.  A link will be provided, and once you click on it, you’ll be prompted to enter your account information. The only problem is it will steal your account information. Never follow links from emails if you can help it.
  • Porch pirates— Not a typical scam, this requires of criminals only inattentiveness on the part of those receiving packages, but it is a major problem across many metro areas. During the day, when most people are at work, unscrupulous people either follow delivery trucks on their routes or frequent houses which most frequently receive packages. Police are actively attempting to dissuade people from stealing packages, but new reports surface frequently.
  • Look-Alike Websites — Many consumers will see an increase in the number of email alerts announcing deals, gifts and sales. While mailers can look legitimate, the links may lead to look-alike websites meant to trick you into entering private information or give scammers an opportunity to download malware onto your computer.

Read more Better Business Bureau tips on how to avoid holiday scams.