DENVER (January 4, 2022) - The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Colorado Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate (UCA), two divisions within the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), want consumers to be aware of ongoing scams being perpetrated on utility consumers this winter.
The first step in avoiding a utility scam is to remain informed about scams that are occurring. Recognizing these common utility scams from imposters claiming to be from a gas, water, or electric company can help consumers avoid falling victim.
Common Utility Scams
- Disconnection Deception: Scammers call threatening disconnection of your utility service. They say that your service will be shut off if you don’t pay them immediately and will demand immediate payment by prepaid cards purchased at a local retail store (or credit card, debit card, bank draft, wiring money, cryptocurrency, etc.) and insisting you call them back. Scammers may also attempt to contact you in person or via email.
- Contractor Con: Scammers posing as utility workers or contractors affiliated with your utility may knock on your door claiming to be employed or hired by the utility company to read, upgrade, reset, repair, replace, or inspect your utility meter or other utility-related device.
- Bogus Bills: Scammers send suspicious emails that appear to be a bill sent by your utility company, potentially featuring your utility’s logo and branding.
- Overpayment Trick: Scammers call claiming you have overpaid your utility bill, and you need to provide personal bank account information or a credit card number to facilitate a refund. This is a scam. In reality, your utility will apply any overpayments you have made to your utility account, allowing the credit balance to cover any future charges.
How to Protect Yourself From Utility Scams
- Hang Up: If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your utility and they are threatening to disconnect or shut-off your service and are demanding immediate payment, hang up. You should never purchase a prepaid card, wire transfer, money order, etc. to avoid service disconnection or shut off. Utilities do not demand immediate payment over the phone. Further, utility companies never send a single notification one hour or less before disconnection. Call your utility provider using the phone number on their website (independently visit the site, do not just click the link in a suspicious email or text) to confirm any payment.
- Protect Personal Information: Never provide or confirm personal information (Social Security number, date of birth) or financial information (banking account information, debit or credit card information) to anyone initiating contact with you, whether by phone, in-person, or email, claiming to be a utility company representative.
- Ask Questions: Utility employees and contractors must carry company ID cards. Ask to see a company ID if someone on your property claims to be working for a utility regardless of the work being performed. If the person cannot show you an ID, ask him or her to leave and return only with proper identification. If you have questions about someone claiming to work for a utility please contact the customer service number located on your utility bill.
- Delete Deceptive Emails: If you receive an email that appears to be from your utility company that you are unsure about, delete it. Do not click on any links or attachments in any email unless you have verified the sender. You may be directed to a scam website designed to steal your personal information or you might install malicious software onto your computer without ever knowing it. Utility companies typically send bills via mail, unless you have opted to receive your bill electronically.
Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact, should alert local law enforcement authorities and their utility immediately. The Federal Trade Commission is a good source of information about how to protect personal information. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Section also provides consumer protection information for victims of fraud.
The Utilities United Against Scams (“UUAS”) have published the Consumer’s Guide to Impostor Utility Scams which provides important information to consumers and community leaders on the types of impostor utility scams that are occurring across the country (phone, in-person, and internet), tips to avoid scams that individuals can use and share with their communities, and names and contact information for the entities and organizations that may be called upon in case someone becomes a victim of an impostor scam.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) serves the public interest by effectively regulating utilities and facilities so that the people of Colorado receive safe, reliable, and reasonably-priced services consistent with the economic, environmental and social values of our state. Visit puc.colorado.gov for more information.
The Colorado Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate (UCA) , a division within the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), represents residential, small business, and agricultural utility consumers as a class in electric and natural gas proceedings before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The UCA does not regulate; it advises and advocates on behalf of consumers. The UCA helps consumers by lowering or eliminating proposed utility rate increases and by ensuring that utility rates, regulations and policies are more equitable for residential, small business, and agricultural consumers. Visit uca.colorado.gov for more information.
DORA is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the marketplace and is committed to promoting a fair and competitive business environment in Colorado. Consumer protection is our mission.
Visit dora.colorado.gov for more information or call 303-894-7855/toll free 1-800-886-7675 outside of Denver.