ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Duke Energy is putting out a warning after an increased number of attempted phone scams. More than 500 customers this month have reported getting phone calls from someone claiming to be from Duke trying to collect their payments over the phone.
The scammers have ripped off more than $109,000 from customers across the country since June. The company now plans to blast social media over the next few weeks to teach customers how to protect themselves.
“Scammers are becoming more sophisticated, and we are increasing our efforts to combat this crime and help customers look for signs of scam activity,” said Jared Lawrence, vice president of Revenue Services. “If we can condition customers to immediately hang up when these criminals call, we’ve won the battle. It is important that we not let our guard down especially as we enter another busy holiday season – a time when scam activity, in general, is more prevalent.”
The scammers tell customers they must make a payment immediately or their service will be shut off. The customers are then told the only way to pay is by loading cash onto a prepaid debit card.
“They knew my account number. They knew how much I pay for my light bill. It sounds very real. I don’t want this to happen to anyone,” said Cindy Evers, owner Planned Pethood of Pasco. “I have animals under sedation and when they said they would power off, I panicked.”
Scam prevention tips from Duke:
— Duke Energy never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
— Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
— Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification with the regular monthly billing – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.
— If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call the local police then Duke Energy. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide. Customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, should contact local authorities, and then the Duke Energy phone number listed on their bill.