CINCINNATI - Duke Energy is seeing an increase in reports from customers in the region about a utility bill payment scam and is urging its Ohio and Kentucky customers to be alert.
Under the scam, a customer receives an unsolicited phone call from an individual who falsely claims to be a Duke Energy representative.
The caller falsely warns that Duke Energy will disconnect the customer's electric service if the customer fails to make an immediate payment -- usually within one hour.
The caller instructs the customer to purchase a prepaid debit card -- widely available at retail stores -- then tells the customer to call back to supposedly make a payment to Duke Energy.
The caller asks the customer for the prepaid debit cards receipt number and PIN number, giving the caller instant access to the cards funds and the ability to immediately drain its balance.
In some instances the caller may even demand the money or prepaid card be delivered to an address.
"The scammers have become more sophisticated and the caller ID on your phone might even state that it is a call from Duke Energy," said Jim Holstein, manager of Duke Energy's Midwest Call Center Operations. "In reality, Duke Energy never asks or requires customers who have delinquent accounts to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid electric service disconnection."
Customers can make payments online, by phone, by automatic bank draft, by mail or in person.
Duke Energy customers who have delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnect notification with their regular monthly billing -- never just a single notification one hour before disconnection.
The company urges customers who suspect or experience fraud to hang up and call local police, then call Duke Energy in Ohio/Kentucky at 1-800-544-6900. Customers should not use the telephone number provided by the scammer.
Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky's operations provide electric service to about 840,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in a 3,000-square-mile service area and natural gas service to approximately 500,000 customers.