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How to protect yourself from utility scams.

Envision this scenario: An individual, posing as a utility worker, is at your doorstep with dire warnings of an imminent cutoff unless you deliver an immediate cash payment. Is this utility rep real? Or you receive an email with a threatening CUTOFF NOTICE subject line. These scenarios have one thing in common: They’re both trying to scam you.

Utility scams like these are happening a lot more lately. Here are the critical things you need to know to keep your finances, identity —and your peace of mind—secure.

How the scam plays out.

In a utility scam, a target receives a phone call, email, text message or even an in-person visit from an alleged representative of their gas, water, or electric company. The “rep” claims to be collecting on a past due account that’s pending shutoff unless payment is made immediately. They’ll often ask for the payment to be made via wire or through a prepaid gift card. Unfortunately, any money paid will go directly to the scammer, and not to the utility entity they claim to represent. 

What to do if you’re targeted.

If you believe you’re being targeted by a utility scam, do not engage with the caller or visitor. If the alleged rep sent you an email or text message, mark it as spam, block the address, and do not respond. You can also call the company the scammer claimed to represent to confirm that your account is not pending shutoff.

Recognize the red flags of a utility scam fraud

Recognize the red flags.

Watch out for these telltale signs that you’re encountering a fraudster:
•    A demand for immediate payment with no advanced warning. Authentic company reps will always give you ample warning, in writing, before enacting a shutoff. 
•    You’re pressured to act quickly. Scammers want you to act now and think later. 
•    The “rep” cannot provide details about your account or a means to verify their identity. 
•    They request a specific form of payment. Prepaid card requests are almost always a huge red flag in any scenario.

How to stay safe.

To avoid utility and similar scams, follow these precautionary measures:
•    Never wire money or send a prepaid gift card to an unverified contact.
•    Maintain the strongest and most up-to-date security on your devices.
•    Update your email spam list often. 
•    Never share your personal information with an unverified contact. 

Fraud is on the rise and consumers lose billions of dollars to it each year. In order to protect yourself make sure to educate yourself on common fraud tactics and the latest scam trends. 

What to do if you paid a scammer.

If you've encountered a scammer who pressured you into payment, the method they've chosen is typically one that complicates the refund process. If you’ve already paid the fraudster, swift action is key to mitigating potential losses. Learn how to reclaim your funds as quickly as possible.

Ways to report utility scams.

If you suspect you’ve been targeted by a fake utility company, follow these steps to report the fraudulent activity:
•    Notify your utility company online or by calling the phone number you know is real.
•    Report the scam to the FTC at
•    File a complaint with the state attorney general for Indiana or Michigan

Additionally, sharing your experience with family, friends, and the community helps to arm others with the knowledge needed to dodge similar scams.

Utility scams pose a real threat to your financial security. Using these tips, you can remain vigilant and keep yourself protected.

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All information presented on this page is for educational purposes only and doesn’t constitute tax, legal, or accounting advice. It is to be considered as general information, not recommendations. Please consult with an attorney or tax professional for guidance.



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