Duke Energy is reaching out to customers about a continuing scam where callers threaten customers with a disconnection of electric service if they don't make immediate payments.
"Unfortunately, we continue to see criminals across South Carolina threaten our customers with these aggressive cons," said District Manager for Government and Community Relations Theo Lane in a release. "As scammers are becoming more sophisticated, we are focused on combating this crime and helping customers look for signs of scam activity. If we can condition customers to immediately hang up when these criminals call, we've won the battle."
Lane said Duke Energy customers have reported receiving unsolicited calls from individuals who "falsely claim to be a Duke Energy representative."
"The scammer warns that Duke Energy will disconnect the customer's electric service if the customer fails to make a payment, usually within a short timeframe," Lane said.
Lane said the alleged scammers have duplicated the Duke Energy response system, so that when customers call back numbers from the impostors, "it sounds like a legitimate Duke Energy phone number."
"Some of these criminals also use caller ID spoofing to replicate Duke Energy's customer service number," Lane said.
Lane warned customers to be vigilant, and provided the following red flags for scam activity:
* The caller becomes angry and tells the customer his or her account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn’t made – usually within less than an hour.
* The caller instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to Duke Energy.
* The caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and personal identification number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.
He provided the following tips for customers and residents to protect themselves:
* Duke Energy never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
* Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
* Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification with the regular monthly billing – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.
* If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call the local police then Duke Energy. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.
* Customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, should contact local authorities, and then the Duke Energy phone number listed on their bill.