YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — As temperatures start to drop, FirstEnergy is reminding customers to keep scam safety information top of mind as the company experiences an uptick in reported scam attempts.

While scammers work year-round, they are more active during colder months because they know customers rely on electricity to stay safe and warm and are more likely to comply due to fear of disconnection, according to the company.

Scammers often prey on the fears of vulnerable customers to steal their personal information and trick them into paying “unpaid bills” to avoid service disconnection.

While FirstEnergy says it takes significant measures to ensure the safety and security of customer account information, scammers can be very convincing to unsuspecting utility customers.

To date in 2022, more than 3,500 notices of scams from customers, including more than 400 in the Valley, were reported to FirstEnergy. The actual number of scam attempts is even higher since many go unreported to the company or law enforcement officials. 

Scammers continue to implement sophisticated tactics to impersonate utility companies. It is important that customers can distinguish between legitimate contacts from their utility and attempts used by utility impostors.

Here are some tips from FirstEnergy to help detect and avoid scam attempts:

  • Well in advance of the disconnection date, FirstEnergy utility customers who are behind on their accounts will be sent written notice of their account status with instructions on how to avoid disconnection of service. 
  • Utility impostors often require that you use unusual payment methods like digital payment apps, cryptocurrencies or money transfers.
  • FirstEnergy field collectors working in Ohio may offer customers with past-due accounts the opportunity to pay their bills in person before disconnecting service. All employees carry company-issued photo identification.
  • Some scammers go door-to-door posing as affiliates of FirstEnergy and offer “special deals” to customers who provide their personal information. FirstEnergy employees and authorized contractors do not solicit door-to-door and will never ask you to provide a copy of your electric bill.
  • Scammers often use Caller ID spoofing software to misrepresent the source of a phone call to further mislead and confuse their targets. When in doubt, hang up and dial the phone number on your FirstEnergy bill. Never dial the phone number provided by the scammer or the caller ID.
  • Bad actors frequently pretend to offer bill assistance through programs that do not exist in order to steal sensitive customer information. Customers in need of assistance should view our list of authorized bill assistance programs.
  • Utility imposters have spoofed employment listings on legitimate job-search websites to trick job seekers into providing personal data. You can verify the authenticity of the posting by visiting the Careers at FirstEnergy page on the company’s website.
  • Cybercriminals may also try to steal your private information using malware delivered through texts and emails. Avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails or texts.