National Consumer Protection Week 2018 is March 4. Duke Energy is reiterating its warning to customers about the tricks scammers use to steal money, and how customers can protect themselves from falling victim to utility scams.

"Arming customers with information is truly the first line of defense from becoming a scam victim," said Jared Lawrence, Duke Energy vice president of Revenue Services. "Scammers can be persuasive, intimidating and they continually employ new strategies to dupe customers. It is important for customers to stay alert and informed to protect themselves."

Duke Energy is a member of the Utilities United Against Scams collaborative consisting of more than 90 gas, electric and water utility companies across the country and Canada. Members of the organization work across the utility industry and with regulators, law enforcement and other telecommunications partners to help stop scams targeting utility customers.

In November, Utilities United Against Scams implemented a national, week-long campaign focused on how customers can protect themselves from scams and identify the warning signs of a scam.

Phone scam history

Under the long-running scam, a customer receives an unsolicited phone call from an individual who falsely claims to be a Duke Energy representative. The scammer warns that Duke Energy will disconnect the customer's electric service if the customer fails to make a payment – usually within a short timeframe.

Scammers have even duplicated the Duke Energy upfront Interactive Voice Response system, so when customers call back phone numbers provided by the scammer, it sounds like a legitimate Duke Energy phone number. Some of these criminals also use caller ID spoofing to replicate Duke Energy's customer service number.

Red flags for scam activity

  • The thief becomes angry and tells the customer his or her account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn't made – usually in less than an hour.
  • The thief instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to provide the card information to supposedly make a payment to Duke Energy. Some scammers may request a money wire or money order.
  • The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card's receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card's funds.

How to protect yourself

  • Duke Energy never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
  • Customers have multiple payment options. They 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.
  • 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.

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Duke Energy Florida

Duke Energy Florida owns and operates a diverse generation mix, including renewables, providing about 8,800 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 1.8 million customers in a 13,000-square-mile service area.

With its Florida regional headquarters located in St. Petersburg, Fla., Duke Energy is one of the largest electric power holding companies in the United States. Its Electric Utilities and Infrastructure business unit serves approximately 7.5 million customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest. The company’s Gas Utilities and Infrastructure business unit distributes natural gas to approximately 1.6 million customers in the Carolinas, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Its Commercial Renewables business unit operates a growing renewable energy portfolio across the United States.

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