Duke reports record number of reported scam attempts
Scams targeting electric and natural gas customers are on the rise, with imposters implementing new tactics during the COVID-19 pandemic to trick utility customers out of money and personal information.
June 2020 was the highest single month on record for reported scam attempts targeting Duke Energy customers, hitting more than 4,000.
The total number of scam attempts reported by Duke Energy customers so far in 2020 – more than 15,000 – already is approaching 2019’s full-year total of 18,000.
“Unfortunately, the scammers appear to be preying on the uncertainty and financial hardship caused by the pandemic, and they are tracking trends and adjusting their tactics,” said Jared Lawrence, Duke Energy’s vice president of revenue services and metering. “As new scam techniques are employed, it is imperative that customers stay alert, informed and make a concerted effort to guard their personal information and wallets.”
Scammers have added a new tactic, which promises to mail customers refund checks for overpayments on their accounts if they can confirm their personal data, including birthdays and, in some cases, Social Security numbers.
Generally, Duke Energy will apply refunds as a credit to customers’ accounts and will not contact customers to verify personal information by phone, email or in person in order to mail a check.
Scam reports also indicate that phone scammers posing as utility providers continue to call and insist customers are delinquent on their bills. The scammer typically claims a service disconnection is pending, rigs caller ID to mimic your utility provider, and demands an immediate payment in the form of a prepaid debit card.
Common scam tactics include:
- A call with pre-recorded voice, often referred to as a robocall, with a caller ID display showing the customer’s utility’s name.
- Threats to disconnect power service to a customer’s home or business within an hour.
- Immediate payment demands by prepaid debit card.
- And, with many utilities suspending nonpay disconnections during the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are now promising refund checks if the customer makes a payment and the pending disconnect was an error.
Customers can learn about recent scams and how to recognize the warning signs on the Federal Trade Commission website www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.
Visit duke-energy.com/stopscams or utilitiesunited.org for more information and tips about how customers can protect themselves from impostor utility scams, or follow along on social media: Twitter @DukeEnergy or @U_U_A_S and Facebook @Duke Energy or @UtilitiesUnited.