As colder temperatures blow into town, so do scammers posing as your local power company. Better Business Bureau Northwest & Pacific has received multiple reports of scammers calling residents and businesses claiming to be with the Idaho Power Company and threatening to shut off their power if they don’t pay up.
An Ada County man reported to BBB Scam Tracker that the caller “spoofed” the Idaho Power Company’s phone number. “He said our power bill was not paid and a technician was headed out to shut it off,” the man reported. Fortunately, the man was able to get off the phone without paying any money.
Utility company imposters will typically reach out by telephone 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.
Con artists have been known to use other tricks to prey on their victims. In another set-up, a “representative” appears at your door in a convincing looking work uniform claiming that the electric meter is not working properly and must be immediately replaced — at your expense. What makes this scam so scary is that their targets often grant scammers access inside their home. Now the scammer has a good look at your house and can easily walk out with your valuables.
These schemes may also involve promises of energy discounts with the goal of getting your personal banking information. Everyone loves a discount so it’s also the perfect way for them to get access to your account details needed to switch you to another utility provider without your consent. This is an illegal practice known as “slamming.”
Here are a few ways to easily spot this scam:
• Restrictive payment methods. If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, this is a huge warning sign. Your utility company will accept a check or credit card. It is also easier to dispute the charges when paying by check or credit card.
• Pressure to pay immediately. If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative.
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of a scam should contact their local law enforcement and report it to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.
Veronica Craker, firstname.lastname@example.org, is the content and communications director for Better Business Bureau Northwest +Pacific. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.