YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As the colder temperatures move in, so will scammers.
First Energy is warning customers about scammers who target utility customers, and they can be very convincing.
Reports have increased over recent weeks because they know customers rely on electricity to stay safe and warm and are more likely to comply due to fear of disconnection. Also, the hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic has given scammers opportunities to trick customers.
Some will call wanting payment and threaten shutoff. Emails are sent demanding the same. S
cammers often use Caller ID spoofing software to misrepresent the source of the phone call and their callback numbers and hold messages sound legitimate.
Customers have to be vigilant in vetting calls. First Energy offers these tips:
- FirstEnergy employees often make courtesy calls to remind customers about outstanding balances and send written notices of a possible disconnection, but we do NOT call or email to demand immediate payment to avoid a same-day shutoff.
- Utility impostors often require that you use unusual payment methods like digital payment apps, cryptocurrencies, gift cards or money transfers. Only send payments to your FirstEnergy electric company using established payment methods.
- FirstEnergy field collectors will offer customers with past-due accounts the opportunity to pay their bill in person before disconnecting service. All employees carry company-issued photo identification.
- Imposters often use Caller ID spoofing software to misrepresent the source of a phone call to further mislead and confuse their targets. Call-back numbers provided by these criminals often use greetings and hold messages that mimic legitimate businesses. Always contact your electric company using the phone number listed on your bill or on the FirstEnergy website.
- If you suspect a scam, hang up or close the door and contact your local police department and FirstEnergy.
- If you have any doubts about the status of your account or the identity of a FirstEnergy employee, contact your electric company at the number listed on the website. Never call the number the scammer provides.
- Periodically check FirstEnergy’s scam information page at www.firstenergycorp.com/scaminfo for updates and information on emerging scam activity.
To date in 2021, FirstEnergy utility customers have reported about 3,320 attempted scams. The actual number of scam attempts is even higher since many go unreported to the company or law enforcement.