Utility Scam Awareness Day, Nov. 16, stresses how customers can avoid being scam targets
As scam tactics evolve, customers should remain vigilant
Simple tips can help you protect your money and personal information
CINCINNATI – It could be a phone call or a text. “This is Duke Energy, and we are on our way to disconnect your service unless you pay us right now.” The type of communication or message may vary, but the intent is always the same – to scam you out of your money or personal information.
If you receive a similar call or text, don’t engage because Duke Energy never contacts customers in this manner regarding disconnections. To verify your balance, check it on Duke Energy’s website or via our mobile app or call the customer service line.
As technology has advanced ways in which customers pay their bills, so have scam tactics geared toward preying on them and defrauding them of their money and personal information. That’s why Duke Energy partners with utilities across North America to bring awareness on fraudulent activities during the seventh annual Utility Scam Awareness Day on Nov. 16.
The campaign focuses on utility impostor scam calls and the advanced tactics used to target customers. The day is also part of the weeklong International Scam Awareness Week, an advocacy and awareness campaign directed at educating customers and exposing the tactics used by scammers.
Recognized annually, Utility Scam Awareness Day was created by Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), a consortium of more than 150 electric, water and natural gas companies and their respective trade associations.
“Scammer tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated, but utility impostor scams are oftentimes as simple as a scammer posing as a customer’s local utility, calling and threatening to shut off their service unless they provide payment,” said Monica Martinez, executive director of UUAS. “Customers shouldn’t be afraid to end a call that they suspect is a scam. You can always end the call and dial the number on your utility’s bill or on the utility website to confirm.”
“Better Business Bureau is pleased to partner with Duke Energy and help get the word out to consumers and businesses about what tactics scammers are known to use to get personal as well as financial information. Identity theft, especially when used in an impostor scam such as acting as a local utility company, is something that can be prevented by identifying the scam before it starts,” said Jocile Ehrlich, president and CEO, BBB Cincinnati Area, Southern Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southeast Indiana.
Stop the scam
Over the last few years, particularly during the pandemic, Duke Energy and other UUAS member organizations have seen an increase in efforts to take advantage of utility customers and the financial challenges that many have faced.
So far in 2022, more than 150,000 scam attempts have been reported by Duke Energy customers. This figure is a significant increase over 2021, which saw almost 17,000 reported scam attempts. Contributing to this rise is a combination of a rise in increased scam activity, increased reporting by scam-wary customers, and improved monitoring. Fortunately, only 2.8% of Duke Energy customers fell for a scam, a tremendous decrease from the 9% victimization rate when Utility Scam Awareness Day began in 2016.
“While we are proud of the progress we’ve made, our goal is to reduce the number of our customers falling victim to these scams even further,” said Tiffany Dennison, Duke Energy’s vice president of revenue services and metering. “As scammers become more sophisticated, we’ve become more committed to curbing the problem through educating our customers, engaging with the telecom and technology industries to remove access to phone lines and fraudulent online advertising, and advocating for stronger policies to protect customers.”
Know what to look for
- Threat to disconnect: Scammers often threaten immediate service disconnections. They ask for personal information or demand payment to prevent service interruptions.
- Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct customers to make payments via prepaid cards, digital payment apps, cryptocurrencies or direct transactions with banking institutions. Duke Energy does not accept payments through the Cash App, Venmo or Zelle apps. (Customers can make payments directly via Duke Energy’s website, duke-energy.com, or mobile app.)
- Promise of a refund or discount: Scammers prey on households with tight budgets. They will inform customers of impending refunds due to overpaid utility bills; however, they need banking information to process the refund. They also may claim that immediate bill payment will result in a discount or that a charitable donation can be made in exchange for a lesser bill payment.
- Personal information: Scammers 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.
Duke Energy will always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including online payments, phone payments, automatic bank drafts, mail or in person. Duke Energy will never:
- Specify how customers should make a bill payment.
- Threaten immediate service interruption. Customers with past-due accounts receive multiple advanced notices, typically by mail and in their regular monthly bill.
- Ask for personal information or credit or debit card numbers over the phone, by email or in person – either for a payment or a refund.
If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, shut the door or delete the email or text. They also should contact the utility immediately at the number on the most recent monthly bill or on the utility’s official website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel in physical danger, they should call 911.
More information is available at duke-energy.com/StopScams.
Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky
Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, provides electric service to 880,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in a 3,000-square-mile service area, and natural gas service to 550,000 customers in a 2,650-square-mile service area, in Ohio and Kentucky.
Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of America’s largest energy holding companies. Its electric utilities serve 8.2 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, and collectively own 50,000 megawatts of energy capacity. Its natural gas unit serves 1.6 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The company employs 28,000 people.
Duke Energy is executing an aggressive clean energy transition to achieve its goals of net-zero methane emissions from its natural gas business by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions from electricity generation by 2050. The company has interim carbon emission targets of at least 50% reduction from electric generation by 2030, 50% for Scope 2 and certain Scope 3 upstream and downstream emissions by 2035, and 80% from electric generation by 2040. In addition, the company is investing in major electric grid enhancements and energy storage, and exploring zero-emission power generation technologies such as hydrogen and advanced nuclear.
Duke Energy was named to Fortune’s 2022 “World’s Most Admired Companies” list and Forbes’ “World’s Best Employers” list. More information is available at duke-energy.com. The Duke Energy News Center contains news releases, fact sheets, photos and videos. Duke Energy’s illumination features stories about people, innovations, community topics and environmental issues. Follow Duke Energy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.
Better Business Bureau
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. BBB Serving the Cincinnati Area, Southern Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southeast Indiana was founded in 1926 and serves 20 counties.