CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Duke Energy said customers reported a total of 18,000 scam attempts in 2019. So far in 2020, that number is already at more than 15,000, the utility company said.
Duke Energy said scammers tried to steal money and personal information from its customers 4,000 times in June - a new record for a single month. The company is warning customers about how the scammers are trying to take your money.
The scammer, posing as someone with Duke Energy, promises to mail the customer a refund check for overpayments on their account. The scammer then asks the customer to confirm personal information like their birthday or social security number.
Here's the thing: if Duke Energy or subsidiary Piedmont Natural Gas refund a customer, the companies will apply it as a credit to the customer's account. No one from Duke Energy or Piedmont Natural Gas will ask you to verify personal information by phone, email, or in-person in order to mail a check.
"We already know all the information we need to send them a check therefore we would not need to call them up to obtain information," said Jared Lawrence VP of Revenue and Services with Duke Energy. "We never call a customer asking them for information."
Duke Energy said scammers are also trying to call customers and insist they are late on bills. The scammer tries to claim service will be disconnected unless the customer pays immediately in the form of a prepaid debit card. The scammer might even use a spoof number that makes it look like the call is coming from a utility company.
"Given the fact we’re in this pandemic period where we have suspended all collection customers are falling for it less, Lawrence said. "Our reports for the entire year has been less than three percent compared to six percent in past years."
It's important to note, Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas have currently suspended disconnections for nonpayment due to the ongoing pandemic.
Here are more scam tactics Duke Energy said scammers are using:
- A call with pre-recorded voice, often referred to as a robocall, with a caller ID display showing the customer’s utility’s name.
- A mimicked Interactive Voice Response menu that customers typically hear when they call their utility.
- Threats to disconnect power or natural gas service to a customer’s home or business within an hour.
- Immediate payment demands by prepaid debit card.
- And, with many utilities suspending non-pay disconnections during the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are now promising refund checks if the customer makes a payment and the pending disconnect was an error.
Customers who think they've been contacted by a scammer should:
- Hang up the phone, especially if it’s a robocall requesting personal information or requesting an immediate payment by prepaid debit card or gift card to avoid disconnection within an hour.
- Call the utility provider by using the phone number provided on the bill or on the company’s official website, then call the police.
- Never purchase a prepaid debit card or gift card to make an immediate payment to avoid a service disconnection or shutoff. Legitimate utility companies do not specify how customers should make a payment, and they always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.