“Be aware that scammers can manipulate caller ID to make it look as if they are calling from your utility company,” warns finance debt resolution attorney Leslie Tayne of the Tayne Law Group PC
According to the Federal Communications Commission, this practice is called Caller ID spoofing, and it’s an illegal practice used to trick you into providing money or valuable personal information.
“If you get a phone call that your utilities will be shut off immediately – unless you pay a large amount over the phone, it’s most likely a scam,” Tayne says. “Asking for payment via a prepaid card, gift card, or wire transfer also typically signals a scam,” she explains.
If you’re in danger of your utilities getting cut off, you should have already received notices, typically by physical mail (unless you chose not to receive physical bills and notices).
Although the fraudster will try to put pressure on you to pay immediately – and may sound convincing, Tayne warns against taking swift action. “Avoid giving payment over the phone, particularly in these forms, because it will be near impossible to get your money back,” she says. “Also, avoid giving any information such as your account number – never offer that information to a caller.”
What’s a consumer to do? Tayne offers a simple solution: “If someone claiming to be your utility provider contacts you and demands payment, hang up and call your service provider using the number listed on your utility bill to check the legitimacy of the call before resorting to any action,” she says.