PENSACOLA, Fla. – Gulf Power will join with Utilities United Against Scams March 4-10 in support of National Consumer Protection Week to continue efforts in reminding customers of the tricks scammers use to steal money from our customers and to educate them on how they can guard against falling victim to imposter utility scams.
“In a world with constantly improving technological innovations, it’s critical that customers stay ahead of the ever-expanding array of threats posed by scammers,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson. “The broad collaboration behind Utilities United Against Scams, including its recent partnership with the Federal Trade Commission, is helping to shine a light on this important issue and is providing resources for customers to recognize scams and avoid becoming victims.”
Utilities United Against Scams is a collaborative of more than 100 natural gas, electric, and water utility companies across the country and Canada. Members of Utilities United Against Scams work across the utility industry and with regulators, law enforcement, and other telecommunications partners to help stop scams targeting utility customers.
Many electric, water and natural gas customers throughout the country are being targeted by impostor utility scams each day. Scammers typically use phone, in-person, and online tactics to target these customers.
Gulf Power wants to warn customers that, while the energy company has not seen an increase in telephone scam activity recently, most schemes revolve around 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.
“Impostor utility scams can be highly profitable to scammers and financially detrimental to consumers,” said DelaHaya. “To prevent future crimes, it is important to educate community leaders and consumers on how to spot, avoid and report scams. If a customer has any doubts about a caller’s identity, we advise them to not give out any information and call our Customer Care representatives immediately.”
Signs of Potential Scam Activity:
- Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour.
- Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card – widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment to his or her utility company. Gulf Power representatives will never ask a customer for money or credit card information when they visit a residence or business.
- Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.
How Customers Can Protect themselves:
- Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Legitimate utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
- If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email, or shut the door. Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification, typically by mail and included with their regular monthly bill. Companies never send a single notification one hour or less before disconnection.
- If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, or shut the door. They should then call their utility company at the number on their monthly bill or the company’s website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.
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.
Gulf Power customers should call Customer Care representatives immediately at 1-800-225-5797 if they have any questions about the identity of anyone representing Gulf Power.