Duke Energy Florida warns Tampa Bay area restaurants and small businesses to beware of utility payment scams

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ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - Duke Energy Florida has seen an increase in utility payment scams in the area. The latest targets appear to be local restaurants and other small businesses.

Several business owners have reported receiving unsolicited calls from someone who falsely claims to be a Duke Energy representative. The thief tells the customer his or her last electric payment wasn'’t paid in full and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn'’t made – usually within less than an hour.

Last week, scammers appeared to be ramping up activity in the Orlando area by targeting residential customers with traditionally Hispanic last names.

In both instances, the scammers request the same type of payment:

  • The thief instructs the customer to purchase a “Green Dot MoneyPak” or other branded pre-paid debit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to Duke Energy.
  • The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid debit card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds. Some of these criminals also use caller ID spoofing to replicate Duke Energy’s customer service number.

Duke Energy never asks or requires either business or residential customers who have delinquent accounts to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid electric service disconnection. Customers have multiple payment options: online, phone, automatic bank draft, mail, or in person.

In addition, Duke Energy customers with delinquent accounts receive written notifications from the company prior to electric service disconnection – never just a single notification by phone one hour before disconnection.

This type of scam activity may be on the rise. One prominent loadable debit-card company, Green Dot, has announced it is discontinuing the MoneyPak loadable debit-cards in early 2015 due, in part, to concerns over fraud. In the meantime, Duke Energy Florida warns all customers, both businesses and residences, to remain alert.

Any customer who experiences these types of calls should report the activity first to local authorities, and then to Duke Energy Florida at 800-700-8744.

Duke Energy Florida owns coal-fired and natural gas generation. That diverse fuel mix provides about 9,000 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 1.7 million customers in a 20,000-square-mile service area.

Regionally headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at: www.duke-energy.com/Florida.