Louisville Utilities and police warn of utility phone scam

Louisville Utilities is warning their customers about a new phone scam making the rounds in Winston County.

If you get a call demanding payment for your electric bill or your services will be disconnected, the call is a scam. According to the staff at Louisville Utilities, they will never contact you demanding payment by phone.  Do not send them any type of payment and please contact the MS Public Service Commission, Sheriff’s Office or Police Department immediately.

Here’s how the scam works: The caller will threaten to cut off power or other services and offer an “energy assistance” or payment plan. Once they get your payment information, they use that information to steal your money.

While many consumers now know to be wary of calls claiming to be from the IRS or offering a free cruise that seems too good to be true, the latest threat comes disguised in the form of the utility companies that many people trust to provide basic services, like gas and electricity.

Like most scams, the more urgent the message, the more you should avoid it, although most calls start out “we’re calling about your utility bill…”

And like the IRS, utilities do not call customers for payments.

Here are some safeguards from the Better Business Bureau:

Prepaid debit cards are a red flag: If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, this is a huge warning sign. Your utility company will accept a check or credit card and will usually direct you to one of their payment locations.

Don’t cave to pressure: If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative.

Don’t let people into your home: Remember that electrical meters are the property of the utility company and would be the responsibility of the utility to replace or repair.

Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem.

Also, don’t get lured outside to view broken meters or point out property lines. Always ask utility employees for proper identification.