CONSUMER FIRST ALERT: Utility scams make a comeback

(WBAY) - We want to alert you to a phone scam hitting several communities in our area right now, where scam callers are posing as employees of local utility companies.

The Bay County Sheriff's Office wants you to be aware of a scam going on in our area. (MGN Image)

It's not a new scam (see related stories) but it's making a comeback. Action 2 News has reports in the past week from both utility companies and Manitowoc police.

The callers pretending to be from your utility demand immediate payment or threaten to turn off your service. They claim to be with Alliant Energy, We Energies, or Wisconsin Public Service.

You only have a few hours to pay or they'll disconnect your power. They might ask for payment over the phone. They might even ask you to pay using prepaid gift cards or debit cards -- a tell-tale sign it's a scam.

They make it look like a call is coming from the utility by faking -- or "spoofing" -- their Caller ID and phone number.

They may even use a recording taken from the utility's answering system or automated menu to make it more believable.

All local utility companies have posted warnings on their Facebook pages.

If you feel you're being targeted by one of these scammers, here are 3 things to know:

  1. Immediately hang up the phone. Utility companies DO NOT demand payment over the phone
  2. They won't threaten to turn off your power -- especially during the winter months, because that's against the law
  3. Check your account. If you do have an outstanding bill, pay through the utility company's website or call them directly

It's important to protect your financial information. The scammers might also claim you overpaid. They'll promise a refund if you give them your bank account or credit card information. Instead, they'll use that information to steal your money.

Utility scammers tend to target older adults but anyone can become a victim, whether a homeowner, renter or business.

Consumer experts ask you to tell your family, your friends, your neighbors about the tricks these scammers use. Not everyone is reading this, and sharing this important information can help stop scams.