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AEP Exposes Tricks Scammers Use to Steal Money From Customers

by on November 16, 2016
Protect yourself, your family and friends against scammers.

(Story by Carey Sullivan)

AEP and more than 80 other gas and electric utilities in the United States and Canada have joined forces to protect customers from long-running scams.

These utilities have designated November 16 as “Utilities United Against Scams Day.”

AEP and other utilities are exposing the tricks scammers use to steal money from customers.

“The scammers have targeted local businesses, senior citizens and customers whose native language is not English,” said Brett Mattison, Southwestern Electric Power Company’s (SWEPCO) director of customer services and marketing. “We’re sharing this information so customers can protect themselves from this fraudulent activity.”

The thieves are calling AEP customers and:

  • Threatening to shut off power in an hour unless an immediate payment is made;
  • Telling customers they need a new electric meter, but must make a payment before the new meter is installed;
  • Offering a discount on their bill if they sign up for auto-pay; and
  • Demanding a deposit be paid immediately.

 

“AEP employees will never demand immediate payment, insist a payment be made with a prepaid credit card or ask a customer to meet us in a parking lot to make a payment,” said Linda Cosby, customer operations manager based at the Shreveport Customer Solutions Center.

Additional red flags for scam activity

The thief instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card — widely available at retail stores — then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment. The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.

Some scammers also are displaying AEP’s name as the Caller ID. Others play a telephone recording that sounds like an AEP phone system message.

Protect family, friends

“Please take the time to warn your family and friends about these scams,” Mattison said. “It’s not just AEP seeing this. It’s utilities and customers across the country.”

If someone suspects they’re being scammed, they should hang up, call the local police and then contact their AEP operating company. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide. Customers can call AEP anytime to verify their account balance and the date their payment is due.

For customers who are facing disconnection, AEP will notify them by mail that their account is past due and their electric service will be disconnected. AEP will contact the customer multiple times before their service is cut off.

“In the initial stages of the scam activity, it is estimated that at least 50 percent of customers contacted were tricked.” said Carolyn Martin, who reviews scams reported to AEP, speaks with customers who have been victimized and compiles a monthly report. “On average, more than 90 percent of customers who receive a call and report it indicated they did not fall for the scam.”

AEP is working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute scammers. For more information, go to SWEPCO’s webpage.

From → News From AEP

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