It’s no secret that consumers with a water, gas or electricity connection have long been targets for utility scams, but fraudsters have changed their tactics since the Covid-19 pandemic. As consumers became more reliant on technology for work, school and commerce, scammers noted these shifts and adapted their tactics to this new environment.
Imposter scams are the number one type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission. While scam artists may come to your door posing as a utility worker who works for the “power company,” in today’s more connected world, attempts are more likely to come through an electronic device, via email, phone or text.
Common Types of Scams
A scammer may claim you are overdue on your electric bill and threaten to disconnect your service if you don’t pay immediately. Whether this is done in-person, by phone, text or email, the scammers want to scare you into immediate payment so you don’t have time think clearly.
If this happens over the phone, simply hang up. If you’re concerned about your bill, call us at (800) 342-7400. Our phone number can also be found on your monthly bill and on our website, westflorida.coop. If the scam is by email or text, delete it before taking any action. If you’re unsure, you can always contact us or use the co-op’s mobile app or online bill payment system to check the status of your account. Remember, West Florida Electric Cooperative (WFEC) will never demand immediate payment after just one notice.
Some scammers may falsely claim you have been overcharged on your bill and say they want to give a refund. It sounds easy. All you have to do is click or press a button to initiate the process. If you proceed, you will be prompted to provide banking or other personal information. Instead of money going into your bank account, the scammers can drain your account and use personal information such as a social security number for identity theft.
If this “refund” scam happens over the phone, just hang up and block the phone number to prevent future robocalls. If this scam attempt occurs via email (known as a “phishing” attempt) or by text (“smishing”), do not click any links. Instead, delete it, and if possible, block the sender. If you do overpay on your energy bill, WFEC will automatically apply the credit to your next billing cycle. When in doubt, contact us.
Defend Yourself Against Scams
Be wary of calls or texts from unknown numbers. Be suspicious of an unknown person claiming to be a utility worker who requests banking or other personal information.
Never let anyone into your home that you don’t know unless you have a scheduled appointment or reported a problem. When we perform work on our members’ property or come into your home, our employees are professionals and will always identify themselves. You can also always call the cooperative to confirm an employee’s identity.
We want to help protect our community against utility scams, and you can help create the first line of defense. Please report any potential scams to us so we can spread the word to prevent others in the community from falling victim.