Be Wary of Threatening “Collection Calls” from Utilities
Connecticut Utility Companies Join State Officials in Warning Residents About Scammers Demanding Payment
HARTFORD, October 4 -- Scammers posing as representatives of utility companies such as United Illuminating, Connecticut Natural Gas and Connecticut Light & Power have been targeting Connecticut residents in recent months, unfortunately, with some success. Today, State officials and the utilities are reminding consumers to be very skeptical if someone calls demanding immediate payment on a utility bill.
The scam typically begins with a phone call from someone claiming to be with the billing department of any one of the state’s utility companies. The unsuspecting victim is told that their accounts are overdue and must be paid immediately – that an arrest or shut-off could happen at any moment. In recent calls, victims have been instructed to purchase and pay off the account with a pre-paid card, such as Green Dot cash card. By giving the scammer the activation code on the card, the cardholder essentially gives them all the money that’s been loaded onto the card.
“A consumer who does as the scammer demands – who buys a pre-paid card, loads it with an amount of money and then gives the scammer the code – will probably never get that money back, because the thief grabs the cash and disappears,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said today. “I urge residents to never make any type of payment to someone who calls you on the phone -- unless you are 100% certain they are who they say they are, and that you actually owe them what they claim.”
“In order to sound authentic, scammers might use information they’ve found online about your utility accounts or other accounts, and you might start to wonder if they really are legitimate -- and they’re not,” State Police Lieutenant Paul Vance said today. “Don’t fall for high-pressure tactics, including threats that you’re about to be arrested for not paying your utilities. State and local police are aware of this scam and you can help shut it down by reporting it promptly to local law enforcement, and providing any caller ID information that you might have. But most importantly, don’t get taken in – don’t provide any cash, credit card, debit card or bank account numbers to anyone over the phone.”
Connecticut’s utility companies report that they do not call customers to demand immediate payments via prepaid cash cards.
“Unfortunately, this is a persistent issue we are seeing across the country, with scammers trying to take advantage of utility customers by misrepresenting themselves as employees,” said Penni Conner, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at Northeast Utilities, parent company of CL&P. “We will continue our proactive outreach to remind customers to never give out their personal financial information over the phone. If customers are skeptical, we urge them to report the incident to our customer service department at 800-286-2000, or to the local authorities.”
“We have made it a business practice to try and continually warn our customers about this scam that utilities nationwide are facing,” said Michael A. West Jr. UIL’s Director of Corporate Communications. “Unfortunately, there are opportunists everywhere who attempt to prey on unsuspecting customers.” UIL Holdings is the parent company for The United Illuminating Company, Southern Connecticut Gas, Connecticut Natural Gas and Berkshire Gas in Massachusetts.
If you get a call you think might be a utilities scam, take the following action:
· Check caller ID if you have it, and note the number you’re being called from.
· Ask the caller’s name and position with the company, and for a callback number.
· Have the caller confirm your account number. (Your account number is on your bill.)
· Never provide personal or account information to anyone you’re not sure is legitimately representing the company.
· Call the utility company to report the scam.
· Report the scam to your local police department as soon as possible.
For questions or to report a call about a United Illuminating account, call toll-free at
800-722-5584. Connecticut Natural Gas customer service is at 860-524-8361 in the Hartford area and 203-869-6900 for the Greenwich office. For CL&P customer service, please call 800-286-2000.
Claudette Carveth, Dept. of Consumer Protection
Lt. J. Paul Vance, CT State Police