After winter storms, beware of utility imposter scams

State News

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- A warning about a scam targeting utility customers. Scammers are impersonating water, electric, and gas company representatives.

These scammers frequently threaten residents and business owners with the deactivation of service if they don’t pay up immediately.

This scam is going on right now when last week’s winter weather caused consumers to need their heaters the most.
“With the severe freeze we experienced in South Louisiana, of course, it’s a little bit different than something we’re used to so it leads to some questions and concerns about the utility bill whether it’s water, gas, or electric,” Chris Babin, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana, said. “It’s an opportunity for scammers to come in and impersonate as though they work for one of those companies and try to steal some of our financial information.”

Utility company imposters will call you or knock on your door claiming to be a representative from the local water, electric, or gas company. In the most common scenario, the scammer informs you that payment is overdue, and the utility will be shut off if you don’t pay up immediately.

“Scammers do pretty good about sounding legitimate because of course, they want to impersonate that organization that we know and trust so a lot of times we would just encourage you if you get a phone call like that, contact your utility company directly. All of the water, gas, and electric services that you might have in your name are of course, tied to a physical address,” Babin explained. “One of the common practices with the legitimate utility companies is they send many notices should an account get past due, and should it be threatened for suspension so if you haven’t received anything like that and get a random phone call that should be a red flag that it’s most likely a scam.”

Cleco Communications Strategist Fran Phoenix says Cleco doesn’t make outgoing calls. She agrees, if you’re getting a call from a representative claiming to be with a utility company, it’s most likely a scam.

“The first indicator that this is a fraudulent call is if they threaten to disconnect your service. That’s not how we do business,” explained Phoenix.

These con-artists may also involve promises of energy discounts with the aim of taking your money, personal information, or the account details needed to switch you to another utility provider without your consent.. that’s an illegal practice known as “slamming.”

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau to protect yourself against this utility imposter scam:

  • Call customer service. If you feel pressured for immediate action by a caller, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative.
  • Never allow anyone into your home unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. If you are expecting utility employees, ask for proper identification.

If you have a scam you’d like me to investigate, feel free to send me an email at smasters@klfy.com.

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