PSC warns of new utility phone scam

CHARLESTON, WV – There is a new twist to an old phone scam and the Public Service Commission is cautioning utility customers to be on the alert.  This latest version is particularly disturbing because the callers have enough specific information about your utility bill to make them sound more credible than ever.

In a recent example, an Appalachian Power Company customer in the Beckley area received a call in which the scammer claimed to represent the utility and threatened to shut off service if the customer didn’t pay the amount demanded.  The caller insisted that the customer had to provide her bank debit card information and pay $778.09, the exact amount of the customer’s last bill, which she had paid a few weeks earlier.

The customer told the scammer that she had paid the bill in person and had a receipt.  The scammer continued to push, saying that the payment had not been processed and the company never received the money.  The scammer continued to threaten the customer with loss of service if she did not provide her debit card information.

Fortunately, the customer knew what to do when faced with a suspicious call from someone claiming to represent a utility.  She hung up and called the customer service number on her APCo bill.  The company assured her that her account was in good standing.  Then the customer reported the scam to the PSC.  When the PSC contacted the utility, the company’s customer service representative said that there have been other instances of this scam in their service area.

“Never engage with these criminals,” says PSC Chairman Charlotte Lane.  “If you receive a call from someone who threatens to shut off your utility service and demands payment, hang up immediately and call the number on your utility bill.  Your utility representatives will provide accurate information about any outstanding balance and will appreciate the report of any scams that are being perpetrated in their name.  You should also report the scam to local police.”

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