Unpaid Heating Bill: Phone Scam Overview
Every winter this phone scam starts making the rounds. Designed to make you panic and give out financial information, scammers use your fear of having your electricity cut to solicit money.
If you've ever been without electricity in the colder months you know how much of a pain this can be. You're without heat, without hot water, and unable to cook. We'll go over how this utility phone scam works and how you can protect yourself.
How the Unpaid Heating Bill Phone Scam Works
Depending on where you live in the U.S. the energy source that's being cut off and the name of the utility company that calls you could be different. In the South, electricity is used for heating, while elsewhere natural gas is preferred.
No matter what your source of heat the setup to this scam will always be the same. You'll get a call from someone claiming to be from the collections department of your utility company. The caller will state that they have not received payment from you and they will be forced to cut your power or heating within 24 hours if payment is not received immediately.
One example of this type of call can be found here in our phone book:
(951) 286-0226: Called and claimed to be DWP that was threatening to shut off our service unless we call "his manager" to arrange making a payment with them.
This particular scam took place in California and the caller pretended to be someone from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
How to Avoid This Scam
To avoid this scam be on high alert during the colder months, since that is when the threat is the highest. You can also keep these things in mind:
Don't be intimidated by scare tactics.
Debt collector phone scams are common and all of them aim to make you panic and pay up. If you know for a fact that you're up to date on all your bills then hang up. If you're not sure if you're up to date on your payments, still hang up and call back your power company directly.
Stay away from unconventional forms of payment.
If the caller asks you to pay your bill by wire transfer or prepaid credit card, hang up. This is a common way that phone scammers request payment. It's untraceable and allows them to get away with the crime without leaving much of a trail.
Be suspicious of spoofed numbers.
Even if your caller ID says that it's your energy company calling don't believe it. Scammers can easily spoof numbers and have done so around the country to trick their victims into believing they are actual company representatives.
What to Do If You've Been Targeted
If you've gotten a call from someone pretending to be calling from your energy company you should report it. Many people fall for this scam every year in the U.S. so it's important to raise awareness about it.
Contact the company who the caller claimed to be from and let them know that scammers are impersonating them and targeting their customers. You can also report this scam to the FTC and leave your feedback on the number in our iPhone caller ID app or in our online phone tracer website.