Consumer Advisory: National “Utility Scam Awareness Day” promotes awareness of fraudulent activities affecting consumers
DENVER - (Nov. 15, 2017) -- The Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), which advises and advocates on behalf of consumers regarding state regulated utility costs, is helping to raise awareness about utility scams for the second annual “Utility Scam Awareness Day” today.
In November 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution designating the third Wednesday of November as “Utility Scam Awareness Day." The goal was to encourage utilities across the nation to use the day to raise awareness and knowledge among themselves and the public regarding the threat, techniques and tools used by criminals to scam consumers and how consumers can avoid them.
During the same year, Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) was formed as a consortium of over 100 electric, water and gas utilities along with their respective trade associations in North America. The UUAS is the first-of-its kind, all-utility collaborative that works to educate customers about scam tactics in hopes to putting an end to these types of scams.
Raising this type of awareness is paramount to consumer protection as thousands of utility customers are reporting millions of dollars lost to scams annually. In Colorado, scams and imposters have been reported in communities like Colorado Springs this past June and in La Junta in August.
The UUAS released the Consumer’s Guide to Imposter Utility Scams which addresses: (1) types of imposter utility scams (phone, in-person, and internet), (2) tips to avoid scams, and (3) names and contact information in case you fall victim of an imposter scam.
The guide can be found at: http://www.utilitiesunited.org/Documents/Guide_UUAS_Guide_Utility_Scams.pdf
It's also Colorado Consumer Protection Month. You can follow "Utility Scams Awareness Day" and Colorado Consumer Protection Month on social media using hashtags: #StopScams #UtilityScamAwareness, #Take5CO and #CCPM2017.
Follow the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel, a division of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), on Twitter and Facebook: @DORAColorado.
A few highlights include:
Signs of Potential Scam Activity
- Disconnection Deception: Scammers call threatening disconnection of your utility service, demanding immediate payment by prepaid cards purchased at a local retail store (or credit card, debit card, bank draft, wiring money, etc) and insisting you call them back. This may also be done in person or via email.
- Contractor Con: Scammers posing as utility workers or contractors affiliated with your utility may knock on your door claiming to be employed or hired by the utility company to reset, repair, replace, or inspect your utility meter or other utility-related device.
- Bogus Bills: Scammers send suspicious emails that appear to be a bill sent by your utility company, potentially featuring your utility’s logo and color scheme.
How Customers Can Protect Themselves:
- Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Legitimate utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail, or in person. Further, companies never send a single notification one hour or less before disconnection.
- If a utility employee or authorized contractor needs access to your home, an appointment will be scheduled in advance, and proper identification will be provided for your review.
- Do not click on any links or attachments in any email unless you have verified the sender. You may be directed to a scam website designed to steal your personal information or you might install malicious software onto your computer without ever knowing it. Utility companies typically send bills via mail, unless you have opted to receive your bill electronically.
- Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact, should contact local law enforcement authorities immediately. The Federal Trade Commission is also a good source of information about how to protect personal information. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Section/Stop Fraud Colorado also provides consumer protection for victims of fraud.
Visit http://www.utilitiesunited.org for more information and tips about how customers can protect themselves from scams or follow along on social media: Twitter @U_U_A_S and Facebook @UtilitiesUnited.
About the Office of Consumer Counsel
The Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), a division within the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), represents residential, small business, and agricultural utility consumers as a class in electric and natural gas proceedings before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The OCC does not regulate; it advises and advocates on behalf of consumers. The OCC helps consumers by lowering or eliminating proposed utility rate increases and by ensuring that utility rates, regulations and policies are more equitable for residential, small business, and agricultural consumers.