INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– A phone scam is draining the bank accounts of electric customers across the country and right here in Indiana, and it’s growing more effective by the day.
Duke Energy is now fighting back by taking to the airwaves. The utility company is paying for radio advertisements aimed directly at educating their customers.
“Duke Energy wants to alert you to a possible billing scam in your area,” the advertisement begins. “Some customers have reported receiving deceptive telephone calls by individuals claiming to represent Duke Energy.”
The message goes on to explain how the scammers are targeting customers who are late with paying their bills. They reportedly demand immediate payments or threaten to shut off the power within an hour.
Spokesperson Lew Middleton says the scam is effective, and traditional strategies to fight against it haven’t worked.
“The problem has only grown,” Middleton said. “It hasn’t diminished at all since then, to the point where it’s affecting a lot of different utilities around the entire United States, not just Duke Energy, and it’s affecting a lot more customers.”
In all of the recent cases, the scammers have been demanding that people pay with prepaid debit cards, which they can immediately access and drain. The mention of prepaid debit cards is also the easiest way to tell that you’re getting scammed.
“Never ever, under any circumstances, will Duke Energy ask or require a customer to pay their bill with a prepaid debit card,” Middleton said. “Never ever, under any circumstances.”
If you do receive a scam call, Duke Energy tells customers to hang up and write down the phone number.
“When they call the police, they can give the police that number,” Middleton said. “Then we’d ask them to call our customer service number, and tell us what that number is.”
Duke Energy is keeping track of all those phone numbers and posting them on social media in hopes of helping customers identify what to look for. Despite that strategy, Middleton says the numbers will likely continue to change, which is why he says education is key.
“It’s a really difficult situation,” Middleton said.
For more information on the scam and how to avoid it, go to Duke-energy.com. Customers in Indiana who want to report the scam should call 800-521-2232.