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How to Avoid a Utility Scam

Consumers reported losing $3.3 billion to fraud in 2020 – up from $1.8 billion in 2019. Learn how to spot common utility scams so you won’t be a victim.
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Scams have become increasingly frequent and more sophisticated in recent years, and it seems that fraudsters will stop at nothing, employing tactics that range from the promise of a lower electricity rate to outright threats to cut off service. The most common victims of utility scams are the elderly and people who are not native English speakers. Here are some common ways scammers attempt to defraud the public, and how to thwart their efforts.

Door-to-Door Scams

In this type of scam, people claiming to work for Unitil go door to door in your neighborhood, proffering better rates to customers who live in deregulated states. At best, the scammer will offer an introductory or “teaser” rate if you agree to switch; at worst, they will assert that changing suppliers is mandatory, or they’ll ask to see your utility bill so they can get your account number and switch your energy supplier without your knowledge (a practice known as “slamming.”)

How to Protect Yourself

Unitil does not sponsor or promote any third-party energy supply programs, nor does it employ door-to-door methods of outreach. Always ask for identification, never shareow your bill, and call Unitil Customer Service with concerns or questions.

 

Power Shut-Off Scams

It could take the form of an email or phone call, or someone might simply show up at your door, threatening to shut off your gas or electricity for nonpayment. They will likely make a demand for payment on the spot, often in the form of an untraceable method (prepaid debit card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency).

How to Protect Yourself

These scammers prey upon their victims by instilling fear, and will often provide a fake phone number. They may even go so far as to record a welcome message at that number that sounds legitimate. Don’t take their word for it – log in to your MyUnitil online account, or call Ccustomer Sservice at 1-888-301-7700 to find out the status of your account. While we do place courtesy calls if you are at risk for disconnection, these are usually automated and give you the option to speak with a Unitil Customer Service representative. Our representatives have your account information so there is no need to ask for personal information.

 

Overpayment Scams

You’ll get a call or email stating that you overpaid your utility bill, and the fraudster will ask for bank or credit card information (or even your social security number) so that they can refund the money to you directly.

How to Protect Yourself

In the event that you did overpay, the overage will appear as a credit on your next bill. Unitil will not call you to arrange for a refund. If you are the recipient of such a call, simply hang up and report the suspicious activity to the local authorities.

 

Email Phishing

Phishing is the practice of sending fraudulent emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to obtain personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. In a phishing scam, you might receive an email that may look like it’s from Unitil instructing you to click on a link to pay your bill online. In addition to obtaining personal information, such links are also used to download a virus to your computer.

How to Protect Yourself

If you haven’t specifically requested to receive your gas or electric bill by email, call before you click. Our Customer Service team will be happy to provide you with the information you need to make a payment if, in fact, payment is due. Or, simply log in to your MyUnitil account – our secure online portal – and follow the links on the My Accounts page to make a payment.

Did You Know? One in ten American adults will fall victim to a scam or fraud every year.

Key Takeaways:

  • Imposter fraud, in which the scammer pretends to be a representative of your utility, is the most common type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • All Unitil employees carry company-issued identification, and you can always call us to verify this information.
  • Never share personal information, such as birthdate, social security number, or bank account information with a caller or visitor you don’t know.