Scam targets utility customers

·2 min read

Sep. 9—HIGH POINT — Representatives with Duke Energy Corp. and the area Better Business Bureau are urging Duke customers not to get swindled by a telephone scam in which people are told to make a payment or face an immediate cutoff of power.

The caller purports to be with Duke and tells the customer that a payment is past due and power will be cut off in an hour or less if an electronic payment isn't made.

A Duke spokesman said the utility doesn't treat customers in that fashion and would never disconnect someone on such short notice.

"If you get a call like this, hang up because Duke Energy never disconnects customers like this," the company said in a prepared statement to The High Point Enterprise.

Utility scams often take place in periods of excessive heat in the summer or bitter cold in the winter because con artists hope the weather will prompt people to take the threat seriously, said Lechelle Yates, director of communications with the Better Business Bureau of Central and Northwest N.C.

The swindle isn't limited to Duke and has been around for many years in different formats, Yates said.

"Scammers impersonate water, electric and gas company representatives and threaten to cut off service if residents and business owners don't pay up immediately," Yates said.

The con artists also use the scam to try to secure someone's financial account information, she said.

"If you feel pressured for immediate action by a caller, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill," Yates said. "This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative. Never give your personal or banking information to an unverified or unsolicited caller."

pjohnson@hpenews.com — 336-888-3528 — @HPEpaul