In our increasingly connected world, scammers are constantly finding new ways to deceive utility customers.
Scams are getting more complex and harder to detect, experts say of a rise in fake webpages, bogus QR codes and mobile payment app scams.
Sponsored ads on search engines like Google can lead customers to an identical – but fake – utility payment page. Victims have also reported receiving email statements that claim their “energy bill” is past due. Phishing emails are an attempt by scammers to get usernames, passwords and credit card information, or inject a virus on the recipient’s computer.
These increasingly sophisticated scams are why Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas have teamed up with better business bureaus to highlight Utility Scam Awareness Day on Nov. 15.
Education and awareness of online utility scams can help further the decline of customer-reported scam attempts received by Duke Energy – about 77,000 so far in 2023, compared to 150,000 reports the same time last year.
Suspect a scam?
Do not respond to a suspicious text urging you to immediately pay a bill or verify activity. Report the text to most providers by forwarding it to 7726.
Contact the utility at the number on the most recent monthly bill or on the utility’s website, not the phone number the scammer provides.
- Duke Energy: 800.777.9898
- Piedmont Natural Gas: 800.752.7504
- If you feel physically threatened, call 911.
Share your experience on Duke Energy’s Scam Reporting Tool. Your report could help track scam patterns and protect others.
If you’ve already been a victim of a scam and sent money, contact your financial institution immediately to understand your options. For phone or digital scams, you may file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and your state consumer protection agency.
Annual Utility Scam Awareness Day was created by Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), a group of more than 150 utilities and trade associations dedicated to stopping scams.
Know how to spot a scam and share this information with friends or family.
Watch for ads on search engines luring customers to a fake payment page. If you need to pay your bill online, go to the website on your bill. Be cautious of URLs that have slight variations or additional words. If the payment process seems unusual or requires extra personal information, be skeptical.
Scammers are also using QR codes that falsely claim to link to a utility payment page. Never pay your bill through a third-party app like Venmo, Zelle or Cash App. Download Duke Energy’s mobile app on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Remember, Piedmont Natural Gas does not have one.
Some customers have received text messages pretending to be from a utility representative. Always verify the communication is from your utility before clicking links, opening attachments or responding to texts that ask for personal or financial information.
All texts start with Duke Energy and contain the option to text STOP to cancel future alerts. Additionally, to reduce character space, long URLs may be shortened and start with duk.us/xx and any personal information will be abbreviated.
Because the company occasionally contacts customers by phone, it can be difficult to tell a scammer from a real Duke Energy employee. Duke Energy will never call you to threaten immediate service disconnections. Be cautious if it’s a robocall. If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up and call the number on your bill.
Another growing concern is scammers who prey on households with tight budgets. They may inform customers of impending refunds due to overpaid utility bills; however, they ask for banking information to process the refund.
Scammers have also been known to claim an immediate payment will result in a lesser bill payment the following month. Others promise to mail refund checks for overpayments on a customer’s account – if they can confirm their personal data, including birthdays and Social Security numbers. None of this is true.