CHARLOTTE — It could be a phone call or a text. “This is Duke Energy, and we are on our way to disconnect your service unless you pay us right now.” The type of communication or message may vary, but the intent is always the same — to scam customers out of their money or personal information.
If you receive a similar call or text, do not engage because Duke Energy never calls or text customers demanding immediate payment to avoid disconnections. Customers can verify their balance on Duke Energy’s website, via our mobile app or by calling the customer service line.
As technology has advanced to help customers pay their bills, so have scam tactics geared toward preying on them and defrauding them of their money and personal information. That’s why Duke Energy partners with utilities across North America to bring awareness on fraudulent activities during the seventh annual Utility Scam Awareness Day on Nov. 16.
The campaign focuses on utility impostor scam calls and the advanced tactics used to target customers. The day is also part of the weeklong International Scam Awareness Week, an advocacy and awareness campaign directed at educating customers and exposing the tactics used by scammers.
Recognized annually, Utility Scam Awareness Day was created by Utilities United Against Scams, a consortium of more than 150 electric, water and natural gas companies and their respective trade associations.
“Scammer tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated, but utility impostor scams are oftentimes as simple as a scammer posing as a customer’s local utility, calling and threatening to shut off their service unless they provide payment,” said Monica Martinez, executive director of UUAS. “Customers shouldn’t be afraid to end a call that they suspect is a scam. You can always end the call and dial the number on your utility’s bill or on the utility website to confirm.”
Stop the scam
Over the last few years, particularly during the pandemic, Duke Energy and other UUAS member organizations have seen an increase in efforts to take advantage of utility customers and the financial challenges that many have faced.
So far in 2022, more than 150,000 scam attempts have been reported. This figure is a significant increase over 2021, which saw almost 17,000 reported scam attempts. Contributing to this rise is a combination of a rise in increased scam activity, increased reporting by scam-wary customers, and improved monitoring. Fortunately, less than 1% of individuals who reported a scam attempt fell for it – a tremendous decrease from the 9% victimization rate from when the company first started tracking data in 2015.
“While we are proud of the progress we’ve made, our goal is to reduce the number of our customers falling victim to these scams even further,” said Tiffany Dennison, Duke Energy’s vice president of revenue services and metering. “As scammers become more sophisticated, we’ve become more committed to curbing the problem through educating our customers, engaging with the telecom and technology industries to remove access to phone lines and fraudulent online advertising, and advocating for stronger policies to protect customers.”
Know what to look for
Threat to disconnect: Scammers often threaten immediate service disconnections. They ask for personal information or demand payment to prevent service interruptions.
Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct customers to make payments via prepaid cards, digital payment apps, cryptocurrencies or direct transactions with banking institutions. Duke Energy does not accept payments through the Cash App, Venmo or Zelle apps. (Customers can make payments directly via Duke Energy’s website, duke-energy.com, or mobile app.)
Promise of a refund or discount: Scammers prey on households with tight budgets. They will inform customers of impending refunds due to overpaid utility bills; however, they need banking information to process the refund. They also may claim that immediate bill payment will result in a discount or that a charitable donation can be made in exchange for a lesser bill payment.
Personal information: Scammers promise to mail refund checks for overpayments on a customer’s account if they can confirm their personal data, including birthdays and, in some cases, Social Security numbers.
Duke Energy will always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including online payments, phone payments, automatic bank drafts, mail or in person. Duke Energy will never:
- Specify how customers should make a bill payment.
- Threaten immediate service interruption. Customers with past-due accounts receive multiple advanced notices, typically by mail and in their regular monthly bill.
- Ask for personal information or credit or debit card numbers over the phone, by email or in person — either for a payment or a refund.
If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, shut the door or delete the email or text. They also should contact the utility immediately at the number on the most recent monthly bill or on the utility’s official website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel in physical danger, they should call 911.
More information is available at duke-energy.com/StopScams.