Page Leggett, Freelance Writer
On behalf of Duke Energy
When a scammer called Florida pet clinic operator Cindy Evers last year and demanded immediate payment on an overdue Duke Energy electric bill, it sounded real.
“They knew my account number and gave me a figure that I owed that’s close to what I usually pay on my electric bill,” Evers said. She paid, even though, in the back of her mind, she knew her payment wasn’t late.
“I have pets under sedation, and I’m taking care of animals. I think I just panicked, thinking they were going to shut my electricity off. I did what they told me to do.”
Evers lost $900 because the caller was a fake.
The scam that duped Evers has been plaguing utility consumers across North America for several years, robbing them of millions. To protect customers, utilities have increased their communication efforts, sending information directly to customers and encouraging local TV and newspapers to warn citizens about the scam, how it works and what people should do and not do, if they are ever targeted.
Those individual awareness efforts will grow exponentially this month as approximately 40 utilities and energy industry organizations from across the United States and Canada have joined forces to recognize the first-ever North American Utilities United Against Scams Day on November 16, 2016.
Duke Energy, who serves customers in Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio -- and Xcel Energy, who serves customers in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin -- are among the coalition members.
Jared Lawrence, Duke Energy’s vice president of revenue services and creator of an online database that captures real-time customer reports of scam activity, says he regularly reviews reports from the database and is at times, astounded by what he reads.
“Scammers have gotten remarkably bold, and even the most sophisticated consumers are falling victim,” Lawrence said. “The good news is Duke Energy’s efforts to raise awareness are working, and today about 90 percent of customers who get a call and report it say they didn’t fall for the scam.”
Find more resources and view of list of International Fraud Awareness Week supporters like Duke Energy at FraudWeek.com.