Imposter phone calls and utility scams

Imposter scams are on the rise – in fact, in 2016, according to the Consumer Sentinal Network, it ranked number two with 472 reported complaints by Alaska consumers, directly behind lottery/sweepstakes scams. Much of the time, these schemes are by phone. Scammers call consumers pretending to be from their utility company or cable company, from the IRS, law enforcement, internet or computer company (tech support scam) or from the court system. The caller claims you are behind in your utility payments, you missed jury duty and need to pay a fine, or your taxes were audited and you owe money.

Often, these tricksters will even spoof caller ID to appear legitimate. In virtually all cases, these scammers are trying to get your money or your credit card number and other personal information.

One scam to pop up multiple times locally in the past year is the utility scam. The swindlers claim they are from one of the local utility companies, that you are behind in payments and your utility will be shut off within a certain time frame. One person told me she received a call from a scammer who claimed to be from her “utility” company but wouldn’t say which one. The scammer became nasty when questioned. They will typically ask for immediate payment by credit card — thus stealing your information — or by wiring cash or buying a pre-paid card like an iTunes card, and then calling them back with the activation number.

Local utility companies will not call consumers and demand money. They will give written notices for past due accounts.

If you receive a phone call, it’s best to not to give any information at all. Just hang up the phone. Then call your utility company with the number listed on your bill to confirm if any monies are due. Never wire payments or purchase a pre-paid card. It’s the same as cash and the money cannot be retrieved once sent.

If you have computer access, BBB has a great resource with its Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.Scam TrackerScam Tracker at Check out scams happening across the country or here in Alaska. And if you are targeted by scammers, it’s easy to report a scam on the site.

Michelle Tabler is the Alaska Regional Manager for Better Business Bureau Northwest Serving Alaska.

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