Utility officials warn of telephone payment scam

Published 3:52 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A telephone scam circulating recently seeks residents’ credit card or bank account information under the guise of a call about electrical service.

Officials from both Alabama Power and the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative said their customers have experienced the scam.

Typically, a customer will receive a phone call with the caller requesting an overdue payment, in order to avoid disconnection.

“This form of scamming has become common in the last year: using the fear of power interruption to lead the victim in giving out bank, credit card or other personal information or even funds to the con-artist,” CAEC spokeswoman Tiffany Trueblood said in a press release.

Scammers have targeted residential and commercial customers.

Trueblood and Van Forrester, manager of Alabama Power’s Clanton business office, stressed that the utilities would not call to solicit personal information from customers.

“We’ve seen several of these types of scams,” Forrester said. “There’s been all kinds. About the time [customers] catch on to it, they’ll change it up a little bit.”

It’s unclear how the scammers would know a certain resident is a customer of a certain company, but Forrester said maps of the service territories for the utility companies are public information.

The utility scam has been seen in the area for months. Some of the targets are not even behind on their bills.

If any CAEC customer receives such a call, officials urge a refusal to make a payment, and to always ask questions to verify the identity and affiliation of the caller.

“A lot of times, if you start asking questions, they’ll hang up,” Trueblood said.

Scam victims or targets should notify the co-op by calling 1-800-545-5735.

Likewise, Alabama Power residential customers who think they have been targeted by a scam are encouraged to call the customer service hotline at 1-800-245-2244. Business customers should call 1-888-430-5787.

For more information about scams, click here.