PUCO warns against scams

Staff report

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) encourages Ohio’s utility consumers to be informed and avoid common utility scams.

“The PUCO receives calls from many consumers who have been taken advantage of by utility scams.” said Nicole Moore, chief of the Consumer Services Division. “It’s important that Ohioans know what to look for and how to prevent themselves from falling victim to fraud.”

Signs of potential scam activity include:

• Threats of disconnection or shutoff. Scammers may aggressively say a utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made as soon as possible.

• Requests for prepaid cards or money transfers. A utility company has a variety of payment methods and will never instruct the use of prepaid cards or money transfers at a local retail store.

• Demands for immediate payment. Scammers often ask for payment to be made quickly, sometimes within the hour.

“Educate yourself now, so you don’t become the victim of a scam later,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. “We have resources and experts who are working for you. These are the good guys who can help you make good choices. I encourage everyone to take advantage of those resources and stay informed.”

Avoid potential scams with a few simple tips:

• Ask for proper identification. Utility employees should carry a photo ID and wear clothing that identifies their company. If there are doubts about a person at the door or on the phone, call the utility company to verify their information before continuing.

• Protect personal information. Do not provide account or payment information to an unknown caller. For questions, call the utility company’s number as listed on the bill or the company’s website.

• Hang up on unverified calls or delete suspicious emails. If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff, customers should hang up the phone or delete the email. Utility companies always give advanced disconnection notifications.

Consumers who think they may have been a victim of a utility scam or fraud should contact the PUCO Call Center at 800-686-7826 or visit www.PUCO.ohio.gov.

Staff report