Our friends at the U.S. Chamber sent along the following useful information:
Did you know that small businesses and consumers across the country are falling victim to a group of criminals that are impersonating utility representatives?
That’s why the Energy Institute is supporting Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) – a coalition of utility companies who have joined together to safeguard customers from fraud committed by scammers.
These scammers are contacting business owners and consumers via telephone, mail, email or door-to-door and demanding immediate payment or personal information. They are also falsely threatening to disconnect or suspend utility services if immediate payment is not received.
UUAS and utility companies are working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify, and prosecute scammers as well as raise awareness of these scams and educate customers like you.
Here’s how you can spot and avoid being scammed:
If you are contacted, hang up the phone or close the door, and call your utility’s customer service office.
Decline to pay any caller or visitor claiming to be a company representative using a prepaid card, a wire transfer or similar forms of payment – especially those requiring an intermediary.
Ignore suspicious requests for personal information such as bank account numbers, user names and passwords, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers.
Delete all emails that demand immediate payment or personal information or that are from a company that is not your utility company.
Stopping scammers requires utilities, customers and the community to work together year-round. Through collaborative efforts like the utilities United Against Scams coalition, we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that customers like you are protected from these malicious scammers.
Not all e-mail scams start with the easy to detect con: “I’m a rich Nigerian prince who needs your help moving millions of dollars. And guess what – I’ll give you a hefty sum of money if you just help me out and provide your bank account number.”
Cnet’s Tech Republic (a site for IT pros) recently blogged the top 10 e-mail scams to watch out for. And some of them look remarkably similar to legitimate messages.
Here are a few to be wary of:
Fake Facebook “friend” messages mimic the real deal. Pay attention to the text in the “to” and “from” fields – if it doesn’t look right, don’t click on the links. Also, make sure the URL is facebook.com (or whatever social networking site the message claims to be from) before clicking.
Virtual holiday cards are a nice way to send friends or clients an inexpensive greeting (the Chamber started creating its own two years ago). Scammers quickly picked up on the growing popularity of these though. Bogus holiday cards likely won’t tell you the name of the sender; instead it will say something like “A friend sent you a card.” Tech Republic recommends doing a web search of the card service before clicking on the greeting.
If you’re not expecting a package, be leery of e-mails from what appears to be a delivery service. Scammers are sending messages from what appear to be FedEx, UPS and others that say a package could not be delivered because of a problem with the shipping address. The e-mail asks you to fill out an attached form so the parcel can be delivered. Instead of a package, you’ll end up with a computer virus from clicking on the attachment.
Others on the list: fake admin messages; fear-mongering messages; account cancellation scams; threats from the government; "you’re a winner!"; census survey says…; and in Microsoft (or Apple or Dell or HP) we trust. Read the full list and details on how to avoid these scams on the Tech Republic web site.