PENSACOLA, Fla. — Unfortunately, along with good tidings, the holiday season seems to bring an increase in scam attempts by impostors trying to target utility customers. Much like during Thanksgiving, Gulf Power is seeing a higher frequency of scam attempts with its customers in December.

“Protecting yourself against scams is a constant battle any time of year, but unfortunately, it is even worse now as scammers try to take advantage of people distracted by the various activities involved with the holidays,” said Marlene Santos, Gulf Power president. “Heightened awareness of these attempts is the best defense. We don’t want any of our customers to fall victim to these scams.”

Many attempts either demand immediate payment, typically with a prepaid debit card, or the phone call will display Gulf Power in the Caller ID. Unfortunately, technology exists which allows a caller to falsify the number in the Caller ID field and create an voice response system that mimics the utlility’s own system. If you are unsure or feel threatened on the call, simply hang up and contact Gulf Power at 800-225-5797 or go online to view your Gulf Power account for verification of your account status. You can also call your local law enforcement authorities.

Here are tips to protect yourself from falling victim to utility scams:  

Signs of potential scam activity:  

  • Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell a customer their utility bill is past due, and service will be disconnected—usually within an hour—if a payment is not made.  
  • Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct a customer to purchase a prepaid card, cryptocurrency or to send funds via a mobile app to make a bill payment. 
  • Request for prepaid card: Customers are instructed to pay with a prepaid debit card. The impostor asks the for the prepaid card’s number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds. 

How customers can protect themselves:  

  • Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service interruption. Utility companies do not ask for a prepaid card and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill.  
  • If someone threatens immediate service interruption, customers should be aware. Customers with past due accounts receive multiple advanced notices, typically by mail or email and in their regular monthly bill.  
  • If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email or shut the door. The utility should be contacted immediately at the number on the most recent monthly bill or on the utility’s official website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911. 

Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website: https://www.ftc.gov/ and the UUAS website: https://www.utilitiesunited.org/ for additional information about protecting personal information and impostor scams. You can also learn more at the Gulf Power website: https://www.gulfpower.com/about/safety/scams.html