YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As the weather starts to turn colder, energy companies are warning against scammers.
The perfect opportunity to target customers is right now when the focus is heating up your home.
The caller will say they are with the utility company and that the bill is overdue. They’ll ask you to wire money immediately to avoid being shut off.
“They’re typically demanding immediate payment and threatening immediate shutoff to get them to take action. A lot of times its senior citizens or small business owners that rely on their power,” said Lauren Siburkis, spokesperson for First Energy. “They really rely on their electricity this time of year, so when a scammer can convince somebody that they need their payment made as soon as possible, it can really invoke fear in those customers to take action and just assume it will work itself out in the end.”
Siburkis said First Energy will notify customers by mail and will call multiple times before a shut off happens. The process can take a few months.
“Hang Up, Don’t Pay Up” is First Energy’s motto. Customers are urged to keep the following tips in mind to avoid being scammed.
- Customers with past-due accounts will receive a written notice of their account status, with instructions on how to avoid disconnection of service.
- While FirstEnergy representatives oftentimes make courtesy calls to customers to remind them about an outstanding balance, they would explain how a payment can be made using the established payment options. They will not demand payment over the phone or at a particular physical location.
- FirstEnergy field collectors – carrying company-issued photo identification – will offer customers with past-due accounts the opportunity to pay their bill in person before shutting them off. This does not apply to Pennsylvania customers.
- FirstEnergy does not accept prepaid debit cards or wire transfers as payment, and their representatives will not demand bank or credit card information over the phone.
- Customers who suspect a scam should hang up the phone/close the door, and call the local police then FirstEnergy. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.