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BBB warns consumers about dangers of utility scam

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By MINDY EATON

If you receive a phone call from your local utility company threatening to cut off your utilities due to a past-due balance or a bad payment method, check with your utility company first. It may be a scammer trying to take your money.

How the scam works:

You receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a representative from your local utility company. They may say that you have a balance that is past due, your form of payment did not go through, or that you may not have signed your check. They may even try to provide you with a confirmation number or a check number. The scammer will then ask for immediate payment over the phone to prevent a disruption in your services.

How to protect yourself:

Check your account. If you have access to check your account online, see if your past payment has cleared through your bank or through the utility company.

Call the utility company directly. Do not provide any of your personal information over the phone. Call your utility company directly to see if there is an issue.

Be wary of payment methods. If the person on the phone asks for a credit card, banking account information, prepaid debit card, wire or gift cards over the phone, hang up.

Don’t fall for threatening tactics. The caller may use a threatening tone or use high-pressure tactics to try to get you to pay immediately, or “face the consequences.” Hang up the phone and call your utility company directly to ensure you are speaking to a real representative.

For more tips, go to bbb.org or call (800) 388-2222. To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker). n