November 16–20 is Utility Scam Awareness Week. To help you defend yourself against scammers, here are tips from Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives Director of Communications Erin Campbell.* For more tips, visit utilitiesunited.org.
Protect Personal Information
Never provide or confirm personal information (Social Security number, date of birth) or financial information (banking account information, debit or credit card information) to anyone initiating contact with you and claiming to be from your local electric cooperative. Never give out information or provide payment to callers or unexpected individual(s) appearing at your door, claiming to represent your cooperative. Your local cooperative will already have your relevant personal and account information.
Take Your Time
Do not be rushed. If you receive a call, text, email, or visitor saying you have to pay your bill immediately to avoid disconnection, tell them you would like to verify they are a legitimate representative by calling a verified number for the cooperative office. Beware if a representative exhibits impatience, annoyance, or anger when you question their authority. While a scammer will discourage you from hanging up and calling the number on your utility bill, a real cooperative representative will encourage you to do so for your own peace of mind.
Always Ask Questions
Ask the person contacting you to provide your account number, your last payment amount, date of payment, and their employee identification number. If the person is a legitimate utility representative, this information will be readily accessible. If they will not answer your questions, hang up or shut the door, then call your utility directly to report the suspicious activity.
Contact Your Utility Directly
If you receive a suspicious call or visit, immediately contact the local police and your electric cooperative. Share details of the interaction, which might aid in a possible criminal investigation.
For more tips, download a free copy of the Consumer’s Guide to Impostor Utility Scams. Remember, contact your local electric cooperative directly if you receive a suspicious call, text, email, or visit from someone claiming to represent the utility.
*Published in Living with Energy in Iowa (July).
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