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New scam targets utility customers

By Jasen Lee | Posted - May 21st, 2012 @ 2:34pm



SALT LAKE CITY — A scam that has been making its way across the country has made it to Utah, where con artists are reportedly calling Rocky Mountain Power customers posing as service agents or attorneys representing the company and offering utility credits or direct bill pay on behalf of the Obama administration.

To receive the credits, consumers are asked to provide their Social Security number, credit card number or checking account and routing number.

The utility and the Utah Department of Commerce are warning utility customers to beware. Some scammers are also handing out flyers in person, while others are using social media and texting as well.

“If someone tells you that the president of the United States will help you pay your utility bills, it’s simply not true,” said Francine Giani, executive director of the state Commerce Department. “Be skeptical of any phone call or text message without verifying it first with the corresponding business or retailer.”

According to Rocky Mountain Power, some customers have even been told their electricity would be disconnected if they did not provide their credit card information.

“These thieves are in no way associated with our company, and we take very seriously any efforts to defraud our customers, especially using our company’s good customer relationships and reputation,” said Karen Gilmore, Rocky Mountain's vice president of customer service.

Customers should never provide unsolicited callers or visitors with credit card numbers or any other information that may compromise their financial security, she explained.

While no consumers have reported being defrauded, there have been numerous reports of attempts by scammers using the ruse to get personal information from customers, according to the electric utility's spokeswoman Maria O'Mara. The scammers "tend to target the elderly," she added.

Anyone receiving such visits or calls about their utility bill is encouraged to pay attention to any information, such as license plate numbers, the phone number that appears on caller ID or an address where they're supposed to send money, and to report the incident to local authorities and the utility.

Rocky Mountain Power employees always wear identification badges when performing work in the field, O'Mara explained. If the badge is not visible and there is no other visible Rocky Mountain Power logo on their clothing, ask the individual to show their badge.

All Rocky Mountain Power vehicles are marked with the company’s name or logo, she noted.

If there are any doubts or concerns that a visitor or caller represents Rocky Mountain Power, call 1-888-221- 7070 toll-free to confirm the person’s identity and role with the company before proceeding with any transaction, O'Mara said.

She said if the utility contacts a customer, the representative would always have the customer account number. Also, if you are contacted by phone and have any concerns about the validity of the call, it is always appropriate to let the caller know you prefer to call them back through the toll-free number, she added.

As another safeguard, customers who call Rocky Mountain Power to ask questions or pay their bill will be asked to verify his or her identity to protect access to their account, the release stated.

Customers should be suspicious of anyone who approaches them and asks for on-the-spot payment, especially if they ask for cash. Rocky Mountain Power employees will not demand immediate payment for damaged or broken electrical equipment or any other service, O'Mara said.

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