By Jim Donovan: Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane cautioned consumers to be on the alert for new electricity-related scams.
Her office has received reports that utility customers are receiving calls from con artists, pretending to be utility collection representatives, threatening that electricity will be shut off if the consumer fails to obtain a green dot card or wire money.
Green Dot Cards are legitimate and common reloadable debit cards that can be used by consumers to pay bills. These prepaid cards are often preferred by scammers as they do not have to retrieve the funds in person, as they do with a wire transfer. All the scam artist needs is the number on the Green Dot Card, and the funds can be accessed remotely.
“Don’t get panicked if you receive a call like this,” advised Attorney General Kane. “Contact your utility company directly and relay what has happened. The utility will be able to check your official account and reassure you about its status.”
The Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) regulations require that utilities provide a written Service Termination Notice to the consumer and additional personal contacts prior to discontinuing service. These notices will provide you with a telephone number and office address, so payment arrangements can be made, and also provide the telephone number of the PUC.
Attorney General Kane cautioned consumers not to give out personal identifying information to callers whose identity is suspect and never to provide credit card or bank account information to them.