The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is warning residents about an email scam involving their energy bills and reminds them to be diligent when weighing offers from door-to-door and telephone solicitors.
“Recent cold weather may have triggered a return of a scam we have seen before involving phony bills and collection notices,” said Commission Chairman Robert F. Powelson in a news release.
“Customers receive an email saying that they owe money on their electric or gas bill when, in fact, they do not. Some are not even a customer of the supplier.
"If consumers are enrolled in e-billing with their utility, we remind them to carefully check any email they receive concerning their account, to ensure it is from their utility. Contact the utility if you receive anything that looks like a cancellation notice.”
In recent weeks, the PUC has been hearing from utilities, electric generation suppliers and consumers concerning a fraudulent billing scam targeting both customers and non-customers using a competitive supplier for their electricity.
Powelson urged customers who receive an unauthorized or suspicious email to not click on any links, which could lead them to a compromised web site harboring malware, and to contact the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services at 1-800-692-7380.
“We have found that scams of this nature are more common in cold weather because people are more easily frightened about losing utility service in the winter,” added Powelson.
“We want to ensure that consumers are educated and protected, and they remain confident in the benefits of the competitive marketplace.”
Residents are also reminded to be diligent when weighing offers for electricity from door-to-door and telephone solicitors.They can file a complaint with the PUC if they encounter a solicitation that makes them uncomfortable.
If they feel their safety is threatened, they should immediately call their local police.
“Consumers should educate themselves through resources such as www.PAPowerSwitch.com,” Powelson said.
“Any time a consumer is uncomfortable with a sales pitch or an email they receive from a utility or competitive supplier, they should contact us. We want every consumer to have a positive experience.”
The PUC offered the following tips to help people protect themselves from these types of scams and if deciding to switch energy providers:
Utilities do not normally come to your door, unless you have called them.
Ask for identification.
Call the utility company to verify if they have a salesman in the area – especially if the person claims to be a utility representative needing to get inside your home.
Supplier representatives are required to prominently display a photo ID showing their name and the name of the supplier for whom they are working.
Suppliers will only need your account information when you are ready to make the switch.
Ask for the name of the supplier.
Ask for the price and other terms and conditions. Know and understand how it compares to your utility price.
Only share account information over the phone if you are ready to make a switch.
Do not feel pressured to make any decisions over the phone or immediately.