Unfortunately, scams have become all too common in the utility industry. Plus, criminals are trying new approaches and more complex schemes each year. Fortunately, there are some clear warning signs that you can watch for to identify fake underground utility contractors and avoid these scams. Use the following tips to keep your utilities, bank accounts and identity safe.
Look for these four red flags that the underground utility contractors are not who they say they are and that they’re trying to pull a scam:
- You receive an unscheduled or unsolicited contact from someone who claims to represent your utility company.
- You receive a threat to cut off your utility service if you do not immediately pay an overdue bill for service or maintenance.
- You receive a request to make payment via wire transfer, gift card or cryptocurrency.
- You receive a bank or credit card statement that shows payments to a utility account you did not authorize.
Questionable phone calls
If you get a call from someone claiming to be one of your local underground utility contractors, keep in mind the following facts:
- Scammers often use automated voice-response systems, so they may seem like a legitimate organization.
- Scammers can clone a phone number, so your caller ID shows that the call is coming from your actual underground utility contractors, but it is not.
- A legitimate utility company will never ask you to pay your bill with money transfers or gift cards.
- Utility companies do not shut off service outside of normal business hours.
If you receive an email regarding your utility service, keep the following in mind:
- Scammers can use fake email addresses, so the email may appear that it is coming from a legitimate source.
- Your utility company will not send you an email that includes an attachment, unless it is something you have requested.
- Legitimate underground utility contractors will not ask you to visit a website other than their own to make an online payment.
If someone shows up at your door claiming to be from your utility company, consider the following:
- All utility employees are required to wear uniforms and carry identification from the company.
- A legitimate utility employee will not visit you at home and ask you to pay your bill.
- Utility companies make prior arrangements to visit your home for accessing your utilities.
If you encounter any of the previously mentioned scenarios, take the following steps:
- Call the customer service number on your utility bill to confirm if they have tried to contact you.
- Question the person who is claiming to be a utility contractor. Ask them for their employee ID and the date of your most recent payment.
- Let your utility company know that a scammer has contacted you.
- Notify your neighbors that there is a scammer in your area.
For more information on legitimate underground utility contractors and their practices, contact Lewis and Tibbitts, Inc. Over the past 40 years, our team has completed hundreds of major utility infrastructure and restoration projects for both public and private clients. We can answer any questions you have and give you the information you need to avoid scam artists. Reach us today at 408-925-0220.