Most of us have one thing in common, besides a junk drawer in our house, and that is we all have to pay bills. I have never met a person who loves to pay bills. One of the top bills we have to pay is for electricity. Electricity is what keeps us cool in the Texas heat and warm during the two weeks’ worth of Texas, “what we call winter”. Electricity is what keeps the lights going in our homes and keeps our smartphones charged. In the next twenty years, we might all be charging our cars with electricity. No matter how we use it, we have to pay that pesky electricity bill. The threat of losing such a vital part of our lives is a real fear many of us have had in our lives, especially when we are not in the best financial situation.
Unfortunately, scammers know about this fear and they capitalize on it every single day. Typically, scammers amp up their criminal activity during the summer and winter seasons when they know people need electricity the most. So, what do they do to scam people? They pretend to be the electric company and they are convincing at it.
Here’s an example of how the scam takes place.
The phone rings, the caller ID says Entergy, and Robert, a guy who just arrived home from work, answers the phone.
Scammer: “Hello, this is Bryan from Entergy. How are you?”
Robert: “I’m good.”
Scammer: “I’m calling today because our records indicate you owe us $175.23 for an electric bill that has not been paid.”
Robert: “I don’t remember owing money on anything.”
Scammer: “Let me verify the address, sir?”
Robert: “1122 Armadillo Ave. Liberty, Texas 77575.”
Scammer: “That’s what I am showing in my records, but let me get a little more information from you. What is the name on the account?”
Robert: “Robert Foster.”
Scammer: “What is your date of birth?’
Robert: “March 17, 1956.”
Scammer: “One last piece ofinformation. What are the last four digits of your social security number?”
Scammer: “Great. Thank you. Yes, the bill states, Robert Foster, 1122 Armadillo Ave. Liberty, Texas 77575. The balance of $175.23 was unpaid from December of 2020.”
Robert: “I’ve already paid my December bill.”
Scammer: “No sir, this bill must be paid or we will be forced to disconnect service immediately.”
Robert: “Well, if you say I need to pay it, I will. I don’t want my power cut off.”
Robert proceeds to give the scammer his credit card information over the phone.
So, what did Robert do wrong? He just gave them everything they need to steal his money and identity.
- Never give your personal information to anyone who calls you.
- True businesses will never ask for a bill to be paid with gift cards such as, Google Play, iTunes or any others.
- Do not be afraid to hang up on anyone calling you. They will try to keep you on the line using threats.
- Texas law requires a written disconnection to be mailed (or hand-delivered in some cases) to the customer.
- Get advice from friends or family. Don’t be afraid to tell someone.
- If you have concerns over a bill, call the utility company directly.
As always, report scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or contact your local law enforcement for assistance.