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Utility Scams Can Catch Customers Off Guard

Algoma Utilities warns customers to be wary of callers who claim to be from the utility requesting immediate payment for a bill.

In several instances in Wisconsin, a caller tells a business owner that they had to pay a specific amount or have their water or electricity shut off.  What’s more, the callers ask the business owner to provide a card number.  After that, the money is gone.

“These scams take advantage of business owners by calling them at busy times,” said Nancy Johnson, Office Manager.  “Last week, right before the busy weekend, several of our Algoma business customers were called late on a Friday and were told that even though the Utility office was closed, they needed to pay their bill.  The caller demanded payment to avoid disconnection of water service.  Luckily the business owners were suspicious and did not make a payment.  Scammers do not have your account number or your balance information, but they will continue to pressure you into making a payment.”

“These scammers will catch you off guard, prey upon your fears and uncertainty,” said Johnson.  “They can also seem legitimate in many ways.  For example, they can program a Caller ID and use other technology so that the call appears to originate from the utility’s area code or actual phone number.  Often the scammer uses a prepaid phone, making the calls next to impossible to trace.  Con artists know that customers will respond if there is an immediate consequence, so they often threaten to turn off power or water within the hour of the call, if the victim doesn’t pay up.”

Their phone calls can be very persuasive and have pressured many customers state wide to fall victim to their scams.  The money lost to these cons is not recoverable leaving the customers feeling victimized.

Algoma Utilities reminds customers:

· The utility does not make collection calls after their normal business hours:  Monday-Thursday 7:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Friday 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

· The utility does not disconnect customers on Fridays or after normal business hours.

· We do not contract with another agency to perform disconnections.  The disconnections are performed by Algoma Utilities’ employees that carry identification, wear uniforms and drive vehicles with our logo on the door.

· The utility will not demand immediate payment over the phone.  Customers first receive a bill and later a disconnection notice in the mail, well before action is taken.  A follow up phone call is placed by the disconnection due date listed on the notice. 

· Customers need not provide personal financial information over the phone – such as a checking or savings account number or a Social Security number – to enroll in any kind of special program or pay off a balance.

 If in doubt, the utility recommends to hang up and call customer service at (920) 487-5556.  After hours customers may contact the Algoma Police Department at (920) 487-3311.