Duke Energy customers have lost nearly $2 million since 2015 to scams
Company co-founded industry group that helps shut down toll-free numbers used by scammers
Interactive quiz highlights scam tactics, provides customer safety tips
CHARLOTTE, NC (STL.News) With the fourth annual Utility Scam Awareness Week starting Nov. 17, Duke Energy is expanding its campaign to protect its nearly 8 million customers from utility-impostor scammers.
Duke Energy, a founding member of Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), is reminding customers of tactics used by scammers to steal their money, and providing tips on how to avoid these scams.
The UUAS is a consortium of more than 140 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas companies (and their respective trade associations) that raises awareness of utility scams targeting customers.
UUAS has helped shut down nearly 5,000 toll-free phone numbers used by utility-impostor scammers.
More than 37,500 Duke Energy customers have reported scam attempts since the company began tracking reports in June 2015. A small fraction of those customers – about 6 to 7 percent – fell victim to the scams, losing a total of nearly $2 million.
From January through September 2019, more than 10,000 Duke Energy customers reported receiving a scam attempt. Of these, 552 customers, or about 5.5% paid the scammers, totaling nearly $316,000 in losses.
Phone scammers posing as utility providers call and insist customers are delinquent on their bills. The scammer typically claims a disconnection is pending, rigs caller ID to make it look like the call is from a utility provider, and demands the money in the form of a prepaid debit card. Common scam tactics include:
- A caller ID display with the customer’s utility’s name
- A mimicked interactive voice response menu that customers typically hear when they call their utility
- Threats to disconnect power, water or natural gas service to a customer’s home or business within an hour
- Immediate payment demands by prepaid debit card
Customers who suspect they have been victims of fraud or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers should:
- Hang up the phone.
- Call the utility provider by using the phone number provided on the bill or on the company’s official website, followed by a call to the police.
- Never purchase a prepaid debit card or gift card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. DO NOT pay over the phone if immediate payment is demanded by a prepaid card to avoid a disconnection. Legitimate utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment, and they always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
The fourth annual Utility Scam Awareness Week includes a weeklong advocacy and awareness campaign focused on exposing scammers’ tactics to help protect utility customers.
The UUAS’ Utility Scam Awareness Week campaign theme, “It happened to me; don’t let it happen to you,” highlights how easy it can be to fall victim to a scam and offers lessons learned from customers who have had this unfortunate experience.
“Scammers’ techniques are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, making it harder for utility customers to differentiate between scams and legitimate messages,” said Jared Lawrence, Duke Energy’s vice president of customer operations for Piedmont Natural Gas and Metering Services and UUAS founder and executive committee chair. “This is why we raise awareness and take action throughout the year, and especially during National Utility Scam Awareness Week. Our data show that deception rates have decreased since we began tracking in 2015, but we won’t be content until none of our customers lose money to scammers. We’ll continue work on their behalf and provide information on how to stay safe.”
Duke Energy developed an interactive quiz to highlight common scam techniques and safety tips.