News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Business

August 25, 2013

Duke Energy warns of ongoing utility scam

TERRE HAUTE — Duke Energy has launched a radio campaign to educate the public about an ongoing payment scam, and what customers should do if targeted.

The educational messages are airing in English across all six Duke Energy service areas.

“We urge customers who are contacted by individuals claiming to represent Duke Energy to listen for red flags, and hang up immediately if fraud is suspected,” said Gayle Lanier, Duke Energy senior vice president and chief customer officer.

Lanier said the primary red flag used by these criminals is the insistence that customers pay with a prepaid debit card.

Here is how the scam works:

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 an immediate payment — usually within one hour.

The thief instructs the customer to purchase a prepaid debit card — widely available at retail stores — and then call him or her back, supposedly to 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 have recently adopted new tactics, using caller ID spoofing to replicate Duke Energy’s customer service number, or falsely claiming to be with a third-party collection agency representing Duke Energy.

They can also become aggressive when questioned about the legitimacy of their calls, and some specifically target Spanish-speaking customers, or 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 or in person, or by phone, automatic bank draft or mail.

Duke Energy customers who have delinquent accounts also receive notifications from the company over the course of several weeks prior to electric service disconnection — never just a single notification one hour before disconnection.

The company urges customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these callers, to hang up and call local police, then call Duke Energy at 800-521-2232.

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