“In the last year or so it’s really ramped up in Connecticut so it’s something we’re trying to learn more about first of all and second of all educate consumers,” said Lauren Bidra, an attorney with the Consumer Counsel.
Bidra says scammers pray on homeowners and renters, showing up at doors and using scare tactics to get personal information. The most common scam is a caller or visitor demanding immediate payment, saying if they don’t get it the lights or gas will be shut off immediately.
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“What’s really alarming is that these scammers will often be wearing utility company uniforms, they’ll often be wearing a utility company badge or perhaps other utility gear,” said Bidra.
Some tips to keep people protected include asking a lot of questions to help find out if a so-called representative is legit. You can call the utility company’s customer service number to verify if a claim or visitor is directly from them and never give out personal information like account numbers, passwords or social security numbers unless you’re sure of who you are talking to.
“A lot of times what the real tip off is they’ll ask for some kind of unconventional payment scheme. For instance, they’ll have you do a prepaid debit card and pay with that or some kind of wire transfer,” said Ed Crowder, Communication Specialist for Avangrid Incorporated.
If you are approached by a scammer let the utility company know but you should also call police.
“What they really need to do is report it to the police. Unless an actual crime has been committed though there’s not a whole lot we can do if they haven’t lost money,” said Crowder.