Riverside residents should be wary of unsolicited phone calls from individuals who claim to be a utility company representative. Typically, the unknown caller warns that the customer’s service will be shut off if the customer fails to make a payment – usually within a short amount of time. Scammers have even duplicated the upfront Interactive Voice Response system some utilities use, so when customers call the number provided by the scammer, it sounds like a legitimate business. Some of these scammers also use caller ID “spoofing” to replicate a utility’s phone number.
Red flags for scam activity
The scammer often becomes angry and tells a customer his or her account is past due and service will be shut off if a large payment isn’t made – usually within less than an hour.
The scammer instructs the customer to purchase a prepaid debit or credit card – widely available at most retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment.
The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the funds loaded to the card.
How to protect yourself
Utility representatives will never ask or require a customer with a past due balance to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank withdrawal, mail or in person.
Customers with a past due balance will receive multiple shut off notifications – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.
Don’t Get Scammed! Customers can avoid being scammed by taking a few precautions:
Never provide social security numbers or personal information to anyone initiating contact with you claiming to be a utility representative or requesting you to send money to another person or entity other than your local utility providers.
Always ask to see a company photo ID before allowing any utility worker into your home or business.
When in doubt, check it out. Be skeptical of individuals wearing clothing with old or defaced company logos. If you have any doubts, ask to see a company photo ID.
Never make payment for services to anyone coming to the door.
If you believe you have been a target of a scam, contact the Illinois Attorney General's office toll free at 1-800-386-5438 (TTY 1-800-964-3013), or visit the Illinois Attorney General's website. If customers have concerns about the status of their account, they can also contact their utility provider directly.