Chilton County residents cautioned against potential scams circulatingBy Emily Etheredge Published 3:37pm Thursday, October 17, 2013
Chilton County residents are being cautioned against two potential scams circulating in which consumers are asked to make financial payments or give out financial information over the phone.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is warning that in recent days, reports have circulated from Huntsville and Birmingham of people receiving fraudulent calls threatening their electricity was about to be disconnected if they did not immediately pay by providing credit card information or by purchasing and sending a disposable debit card.
In response to this, the actual electrical utilities issued public warnings urging consumers not to provide information or payments, but to contact the company directly.
Clanton Police Department Sgt. Robert Bland said he has been warning people in Chilton County of this potential scam and is preparing a YouTube video to put on CPD’s Facebook page.
“Our goal is to provide information and training to the public to better protect themselves of this growing issue,” Bland said. “We have found with social media growing so fast that the public tend to get most of their information about the world, events and news from it.”
Bland said CPD’s No. 1 goal is to prevent and help individuals recover once they have become a victim of the scam.
A separate scam that has been circulating in Chilton County involves a text message informing people their Visa debit card has been suspended.
Those who receive the text are advised to call a number and verify the Visa debit card number, three-digit verification code on the back of the card and the last four digits from their Social Security cards.
Bland created a YouTube video warning residents in Chilton County to be aware that this particular scam seeks to steal personal information including people’s identity.
“After posting this video, we had four people within Clanton who also received the same text and several people who had contacted us on other similar scams,” Bland said.
Central Alabama Electric Cooperative posted a notification of a similar scam on their Facebook page Thursday.
A member contacted CAEC about a phone call from someone claiming CAEC needed immediate payment for a delinquent amount.
CAEC does not solicit members for delinquent amounts.
The scam also asks for either a credit card and bank account info or payment via prepaid card such as GreenDot.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division periodically receives inquiries and complaints about similar scams, with scammers often claiming to represent utility companies that provide electricity, natural gas, telephone or cable service.
“These scams use fear and intimidation to trick people into thinking they owe money and to send payments quickly or they may lose an essential or highly valued service,” Attorney General Luther Strange said in a release. “I urge Alabamians to be suspicious of any such calls and to not be frightened into sending money they may not owe and which may be impossible to recover.”
Strange tells consumers to take extreme care in any wire transfers of money, in sending disposable debit cards, or in providing their financial information.
Some of his tips include:
•Ask the person calling for their name and contact information, but do not rely on the information they give.
•Look up the contact information of the company they claim to represent, verify it and contact the company directly.
•If someone gives a command requiring immediate action, either to get a prize, to pay a fee, or to stop disconnection of a service, refuse to handle this with them on the telephone, but tell them it can be taken care of by contacting the company directly.
If they persist in demanding immediate payment, it is best to tell them that a report will be made to local law enforcement, the company they claim to represent and the Attorney General’s office.
To report a potential scam, contact the Clanton Police Department at (205) 755-1194 or Attorney General Strange’s Consumer Protection Section by calling toll-free (800) 392-5658.
Bland’s YouTube video is available to view on the Clanton Police Department’s Facebook page.