Nueces Electric Cooperative is sending out warnings about utility scams. It’s like clockwork. February and July are consistent with Valentines, 4th of July and utility scams. In the past few weeks, utilities all across the U.S. have received calls from consumers reporting scams.

The scam is always the same story. A consumer receives a phone call from someone who said their payment had been denied, or never received, and demands immediate payment or they would shut off their power. There are three main utility scams:

  • Scam #1 The Green Dot Card Scam: Scammers insist they need to pay their bill immediately or they will be disconnected. They tell them to purchase green dot money cards and call them with the verification codes.
  • Scam #2 Phishing: Scammers insist they need to pay their bill immediately or they will be disconnected. They ask them to verify the credit card or bank account they used to pay their bill.
  • Scam #3 Google Scam: a Google Calendar invitation pops up in your inbox, It claims to come from “Google Calendar” and has the subject line, “Your Electric bill is available.”

If you receive a call or a visit from someone telling you your electric provider will disconnect your power unless you provide a debit or credit card or a personal financial account number, close the door or hang up and contact the electric provider the person claims to be with.

If an NEC employee contacts you by phone, it is the policy of Nueces Electric Cooperative to NEVER request confidential, personal financial information – like a credit card number or checking/savings routing and account numbers. Only give your confidential financial information to the co-op if you have contacted the co-op directly to make a payment. Chances are, anyone contacting members asking for a payment is not employed or authorized by the co-op.

“We want NEC members to know about possible scams,” says John L. Sims, NEC CEO. He adds, “Play it safe and always contact the company directly. Never give anyone who contacts you your credit card or bank account information.”

Prepaid debit cards are a popular method of payment for scammers. Wire transfer services have tightened their security, so crooks have turned to these prepaid cards instead. The cards are difficult to trace, you do not need photo identification to collect or spend the money and transactions cannot be reversed.

Tips for Spotting a Scam:
Because NEC does sometimes contact members by phone, it can be difficult to tell a scammer from a member representative. Here are some tips:

  • If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card, this is a red flag.
  • If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative.
  • 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, ask  employees for proper identification.

” These types of scam continue to make their way around the country on a regular basis. All utility industries  have been on alert for this scam previously and as long as the scammers continue to make money, it will unfortunately continue to be an issue for all industries” adds Sims.

If you receive a suspicious call, capture as much information about the caller as possible. After calling NEC directly to confirm we did not contact you, notify your local authorities. However, if the person is at your home, please be safe and contact the local authorities for assistance.