Fake Utilities Rebates: Phone Scam Overview
The cost of utilities like electricity, gas or oil (depending where you're living in the country) can surge with the change of seasons. If the winter is particularly cold the price of heating your house can be a real hardship. The same is true for particularly hot summers, air conditioners consume a lot of electricity and if you need to run them whenever you're home the electric bills will start to add up.
Phone scammers have started realizing that many people may fall behind on a utility bill during the summer and winter months, and that the inconvenience of getting your power and heating cut off will make many people panic and react quickly. Scammers have begun to call people acting as representatives from energy companies, demanding payments and threatening consequences of not paying.
In a new twist on the typical utility phone scam, some scammers have decided to offer their targets utility rebates offering to lower the price of their monthly energy bills.
Getting a Strange Phone Call
Just like many other scams, the utility rebate scam will start with a phone call. The person calling will inform you they are with the utility company in your area and that they have a great deal for you.
The caller will go into detail about the various rebates they are offering. While these rebates can sound like a great way to save money, they are nothing more than empty promises to get you to give out sensitive information.
If you state that you would like to sign up for the rebates they are offering, the scammer will transfer you to their "verification department." Once you are transferred you will be asked to give out personal information, like your payment information and your Social Security number. The information they receive from you is then sold to a third party for the purpose of scamming you out of money.
Staying On Guard
Any time you get a call from your utility company, state that you are not able to speak and will call back directly to talk with someone. Many of these phone scammers will use caller ID spoofing to make it seems as if they are calling from a local number or even from your utility company.
Remember if your utility company does really call you, they will not request sensitive information from you. If the caller does request sensitive information, then chances are they are doing nothing more than trying to scam you. In any situation where a caller pressures you to share personal information it's best to hang up.
Reporting the Scam
Scams like this should be reported to your energy company, local police, your state's Attorney General, and the FTC. Utility phone scams typically target many people in the same area at one time. By reporting this scam to the police and your Attorney General you will be able to warn others in your community.
Another way you can help warn those in your community is by leaving your feedback on numbers you suspect are involved in scams in CallerSmart's free reverse phone book app for iPhone. If you don't have an iPhone you can still use our reverse phone number lookup service on our website and leave your feedback on scamming numbers.