(PLAINFIELD) - As scammers continue to target the customers of utility service providers across the country, Duke Energy is reminding its customers not to fall victim to fraudulent activity.
"Unfortunately, we continue to receive reports across our service areas of individuals impersonating Duke Energy employees to steal money from our customers," said Gayle Lanier, Duke Energy's senior vice president of customer services. "Our customers can protect themselves by knowing the signs of fraudulent activity."
Based on current events, here are the most prevalent scams reported from Duke Energy's service areas:
Phone Payment Scam - Under this long-running scam, a customer receives an unsolicited phone call from an individual who falsely claims 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:
* The thief instructs the customer to purchase a "Green Dot" or other branded pre-paid debit card - widely available at retail stores - then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to Duke Energy.
* The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid debit card's receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card's funds. Some of these criminals also use caller ID spoofing to replicate Duke Energy's customer service number. They can also become aggressive when questioned about the legitimacy of their calls, and some specifically target Spanish-speaking customers, restaurants and other small businesses.
* In reality, Duke Energy never asks or requires customers who have delinquent accounts to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid electric service disconnection. Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person. Duke Energy customers who have delinquent accounts also receive notifications from the company prior to electric service disconnection - never just a single notification one hour before disconnection.
Email phishing scam - Duke Energy customers have reported receiving statements via email that claim their "energy bill" is due or past due:
* These emails, not connected to Duke Energy's Paperless Billing program, instructs customers to click on a link to pay their bill. Clicking on the link could result in downloading a virus onto the recipient's computer or theft of personal information.
* Customers should avoid clicking links or downloading attachments from businesses or individuals they do not know, and contact Duke Energy directly to discuss their account.
In-person visits - Some customers have reported receiving in-person visits from individuals falsely claiming to be employed by Duke Energy:
* Occasionally, Duke Energy may send employees or authorized contractors to a customer's home or business to perform meter work or some other service. If you ever question whether a person is a legitimate representative of Duke Energy, contact the company directly to verify the identity of the person and reason for the visit.
* In some instances, representatives from private companies may be working in an area on behalf of Duke Energy. If these individuals do not have an official identification card, ask for their name and reason for the visit, and then contact Duke Energy to verify the information.
* Customers should never allow anyone into their home unless they have verified the person's identity, or have scheduled the visit through Duke Energy in advance.
* Duke Energy employees do not collect payment from customers in the field. Customers should make payments only through the company's authorized payment channels: online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
Duke Energy urges customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, to contact local authorities, then Duke Energy at 800-521-2232.
Duke Energy Indiana's operations provide about 7,500 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 800,000 customers in a 23,000-square-mile service area, making it the state's largest electric supplier.
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