SCAM ALERT: New Duke Energy scam says residents must pay for ‘smart meter’

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Duke Energy (File photo)

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – A new scam is reportedly targeting residents in the Upstate, saying they must pay for a new “smart meter” or power will be cut off.

According to one WSPA viewer who received the call, the scammer claims to be with Duke Energy. The caller says power will be cut off shortly if you don’t put a deposit down for a new “smart meter.”

“Unfortunately, utility scams are not new and these criminals are always looking for new tactics to use to fool people into handing over their hard-earned money,” Duke Energy spokesperson Ryan Mosier said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Duke Energy says they saw many scammers become more creative and aggressive.

They say you do not have to sign anything or give personal information to anyone calling you on the phone, sending you an email or showing up at your door.

If you feel something’s not quite right about the situation, contact Duke Energy immediately at 800.777.9898. Contact the police immediately and report the call if you feel it was an impostor.

Duke Energy has provided some tips for protecting yourself against scams.

What to look for:

  • Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell a customer their utility bill is past due, and service will be disconnected—usually within an hour—if a payment is not made.
  • Request for immediate payment: Scammers might instruct a customer to purchase a prepaid card, cryptocurrency, or to send funds via a mobile app to make a bill payment.
  • Request for prepaid card or payment through certain mobile apps: Customers are instructed to pay with a prepaid debit card. The impostor asks for the prepaid card’s number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds. More recently, customers have also been instructed to send a payment through a mobile app. Duke Energy currently does not accept payments through the Cash App, Venmo or Zelle apps. However, customers can make payments on Duke Energy’s mobile app available in the Apple App Store for iOS and the Google Play Store for Android.
  • Personal information: During the COVID-19 crisis, criminals are promising to mail refund checks for overpayments on their accounts if they can confirm their personal data, including birthdays and, in some cases, Social Security numbers. Duke Energy will apply refunds as a credit to customers’ accounts and will not contact customers to verify personal information by phone, email or in person in order to mail a check.

Protect yourself

  • Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service interruption. Utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including online payments, phone payments, automatic bank drafts, mail, or in person.
  • If someone threatens immediate service interruption, customers should be aware. Customers with past due accounts receive multiple advanced notices, typically by mail and in their regular monthly bill. Utilities will never notify of a disconnection in one hour or less.
  • If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, or shut the door. The utility should be contacted immediately at the number on the most recent monthly bill or on the utility’s official website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 9-1-1.

Learn more about avoiding scams by visiting Duke Energy’s website here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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