It’s no secret that consumers with water, gas, or electricity services have long been targets of utility scams, but fraudsters have changed their tactics since the COVID-19 pandemic. As consumers became more reliant on technology for work, school, and commerce, scammers noted these shifts and adapted their tactics to this changing environment.
Imposter scams are the number-one type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission. While scam artists may come to your door posing as a utility worker who works for the “power company,” in today’s more connected world, attempts are more likely to come through an electronic device, via email, phone, or text.
Common Types of Scams
A scammer may claim you are overdue on your electric bill and threaten to disconnect your service if you don’t pay immediately. Whether this is done in person, by phone, text, or email, the scammers want to scare you into immediate payment, so you don’t have time to think clearly.
If this happens over the phone, simply hang up. If you’re concerned about your bill, call Presque Isle Electric & Gas (PIE&G) at 1-800-423-6634. Our phone number can also be found on your monthly bill and our website, www.pieg.com. If the scam is by email or text, delete it before taking action. If you’re unsure, you can always contact our member services representatives, or use PIE&G’s SmartHub tool on our website or with the free mobile app to check your account status. Remember, PIE&G will never attempt to demand immediate payment after just one notice.
Some scammers may falsely claim you have been overcharged on your bill and say they want to give you a refund. It sounds easy. All you have to do is click or press a button to initiate the process. If you proceed, you will be prompted to provide banking or other personal information. Instead of money going into your bank account, the scammers can drain your account and use personal information such as a social security number for identity theft.
If this “refund” scam happens over the phone, just hang up and block the phone number to prevent future robocalls. If this scam attempt occurs via email (known as a “phishing” attempt) or by text (“smishing”), do not click any links. Instead, delete it, and if possible, block the sender. If you overpay your energy bill, PIE&G will automatically apply the credit to your next billing cycle. When in doubt, contact us.
Defend Yourself Against Scams
Be wary of calls or texts from unknown numbers. Be suspicious of an unknown person claiming to be a utility worker who requests banking or other personal information.
Never let anyone into your home that you don’t know unless you have a scheduled appointment or reported a problem. PIE&G employees usually drive trucks with our logo and carry ID badges. When we perform work on our members’ property or come into your home, our employees are professionals and will always identify themselves.
PIE&G wants to help protect our members against utility scams, and you can help create the first line of defense. Please report any potential scams to us so we can spread the word to prevent others in the community from falling victim.