Eye on Scams: Fake emails from utility companies

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — In observance of National Utility Scam Awareness this week, Cleco is reminding customers to be on alert for fraudulent phone calls, texts, and emails a well as in-person scammers posing as representatives of Cleco.

Con-artists are using fear tactics to scam residents regarding their utility bills.

The scammers are calling or emailing and falsely claiming consumers and businesses are behind on payments and about to be shut off.

Chris Babin, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana, said, “Recently, we’ve received reports from consumers that they’re getting calls from scammers that are impersonating their energy companies saying that their electricity is going to be cut off because their account’s past due and it needs payment.”

Scammers identify themselves as a representative from your local electric or gas company. They tell you your bill is late and you need to pay immediately. 

“The way to tell that this is a scam is typically they ask for payment methods that aren’t normally accepted or aren’t common,” explained Babin. “They ask for prepaid debit or credit card information. They ask for you to go get iTunes gift cards as crazy as that sounds.”

Cleco says these scammers can be very convincing and are becoming more sophisticated.

Corporate Communications Manager for Cleco, Jennifer Cahill, added, “Scammers frequently try to take advantage of our customers with fraudulent phone calls demanding immediate payment with pre-paid credit cards and threatening disconnection, but Cleco will never initiate calls to demand immediate payment, and our customer service representatives will never ask customers to pay with a pre-paid card.

“That money is going to go straight to the scammer which is the reason they want you to use something like a prepaid debit card or credit card because once the funds have left that particular card, there’s no getting them back.”

Some tips from the Better Business Bureau on how to avoid these utility scams are as follows:

  • If a caller specifically urges you to pay by prepaid debit card or wire transfer – this is a huge warning sign. 
  • If you feel pressured for immediate payment over the phone, hang up. 
  • Ask for proper identification for those who claim they’re utility employees.

If you have a scam you’d like me to investigate, feel free to send me an email at smasters@klfy.com.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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