BBB warns of utility bill payment scam

  • Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013 9:19 a.m.

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers in North Carolina and South Carolina about a bill payment scam that is targeting utility customers. Scammers claiming to be from Duke Energy have been calling individuals and small businesses in the Southern Piedmont area and telling them that their electric bill is past due. The caller threatens that their electricity will be turned off within hours unless they make an immediate payment by a prepaid debit card, such as the Green Dot Money Card available at WalMart.

“Today, this scam is targeting Duke Energy customers, but scammers could target Time Warner Cable customers or Piedmont Natural Gas customers tomorrow,” said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. “It is important for utility customers to know what the red flags are so that they don’t become a victim of this scam.”

This wave of scam calls is the second round since November. The BBB has advice for utility customers:

• Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.

• Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who calls or emails you.

• Never wire money or provide debit or credit card numbers to someone you do not know.

• Call the number on your utility company bill to find out if there is a problem with your account.

“Since November, these criminals have adopted new tactics,” said Tom Cunningham, Duke Energy payments manager. “Some use caller ID spoofing to replicate Duke Energy’s customer service number, or falsely claim to be with a third party collection agency representing Duke Energy. It’s very important that customers recognize the red flags.”

Duke Energy offers customers a number of payment options, including online, by phone, by automatic bank draft, by mail or in person.

According to Cunningham, Duke Energy never contacts customers to demand a prepaid debit card payment to avoid an immediate service disconnection. “We urge customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, to hang up and call local police, then Duke Energy to get their current account balance,” added Cunningham.

Duke Energy contact numbers in N.C. and S.C. include:

• Duke Energy Carolinas Customers – 800-777-9898

• Progress Energy Carolinas Customers – 800-452-2777

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