From hurricanes in Florida to winter storms in Maine, and from tornadoes in Alabama to wildfires in California, there’s always some kind of natural disaster occurring – and likely another one waiting in the wings. As bad as that is, the situation is made worse by utility scams. Desperate homeowners with no gas lines, phones, or power fall prey to utility representatives being impersonated by scammers. Particularly where older adults are concerned, they trick unsuspecting individuals by email, text, and phone. So brazen are these impersonators, that they’ve even been known to show up at a resident’s door!
Let’s take a look at how these scammers communicate with unsuspecting adults, first of all. Then a bit of advice.
Scammers can use email to impersonate a utility company in an attempt to steal your personal identification or your money. Some of these emails can seem very credible and are, in fact, borderline ingenious. To get information and/or money, you may be directed to a scam website through a bogus utility bill sent by an email scammer.
What to do: If you are in doubt as to the authenticity of an email, contact your utility service. You may even wish to give them the email address from which your bogus/scammer email originated (or a copy of the email itself).
To trick mobile phone users, phony text messages are used to try to get people to give out personal information. Unless you signed up with your utility company to receive specific notifications via texts, it isn’t particularly typical for utility companies to text customers.
What to do: Never respond to these messages by giving out any information. Call your utility company to ask if they texted you and to report the text if they didn’t.
It’s a good tipoff if “immediate payment by prepaid card” is demanded under the threat of immediate utility service disconnection. Before truly shutting off or disconnecting your services, one or more disconnection notices will be mailed to you by your utility company. Without telling you what type of payment you must use, several bill payment options will likely be offered.
What to do: Don’t give them any credit card or banking information of any kind. Again, make a call to your utility company on your own and ask to speak with someone about billing and/or payments.
Showing Up at Your Door
This is possibly the most blatantly disrespectful method of all scammers – invading your personal space. But that’s what they do. They will ask for access to your dwelling and/or immediate payment. They can show up at your business or home and without an appointment.
Why do they want to get in? Frequently working in pairs, they may try to steal your personal information and/or physical objects from your home.
What to do: First of all, request an ID. Unless you actually have reported a problem or have set up an appointment with these people, do not let them in!
Though you may wish to report these scams, please understand that, because they’re good at what they do, scammers tend to slip through the cracks. Some get caught. Many don’t. As soon as they’ve used an email or a phone number a few times, they change to a new one.
If someone tells you that your account or credit card has been charged a certain amount of money, and you haven’t prearranged this, do not respond. Do not give any information to these people. It’s a scam.
If you are ever in doubt as to the authenticity or reliability of a person, a text, phone call, email, etc., always contact your utility company directly and ask to speak to a representative.
Spring Mill – Offering a Safe Place for Retirement Living
The best retirement communities offer premier care. That’s part of what makes them “the best”. Your loved one can enjoy resort-like senior living at Spring Mill while being cared for by the top caregiving team in the area.
At Spring Mill, because utilities are part of the package, your loved one never has to worry about annoying utility scams. Naturally, they should always be on the alert for other types of phone scams, email scams, etc., so share your concerns with them as needed.