A call comes in. The caller I.D. says it’s Duke Energy or Piedmont Natural Gas. A voice insists your service is being disconnected in 30 minutes unless you pay over the phone right now.
Do you know what to do?
Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and more than 150 utilities from the United States and Canada say to just hang up. As part of its annual Utility Scam Awareness Day on Nov. 17, Utilities United Against Scams is encouraging customers to “End the call. End the scam.”
Since the pandemic started, Duke Energy customers reported a record number of scam attempts – more than 30,000 in 2020 alone – but customers are getting better at stopping scammers. Only 4 percent of Duke Energy customers fell for scams in the last year, down from 9 percent before Utility Scam Awareness Day began in 2016.
End the call. End the scam.
Here are four of the most common ways scammers steal money or identities from utility customers. If you get a call like any of these, hang up and call your utility at the number on your bill or the company’s website – not the phone number the scammer provides.
- Threat to disconnect. Scammers say your utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected – usually within 30 minutes – if a payment is not made.
- New meter refund. After Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas suspended disconnects and offered extended payment plans in response to the pandemic, scammers started telling homeowners they need to pay a deposit for a new meter immediately, which will be refunded.
- Mobile banking apps. Scammers say you need to pay immediately through a mobile app, but Duke Energy does not accept payments through Cash App, Venmo or Zelle. Customers can make payments directly on Duke Energy’s app, available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Piedmont Natural Gas does not have a mobile app.
- Personal information. Criminals promise to mail refund checks for overpayments on a customer’s account if they can confirm their personal data, including birthdays and, in some cases, Social Security numbers.
Learn more about how to avoid scams.