Phone scammers posing as Florida Power & Light Co. employees have been targeting customers across its 35-county territory for months.
Most of the calls have been to residential customers, but the scammers also target businesses.
Tuesday, a West Palm Beach area printing shop owner told the Palm Beach Post that someone claiming to be with FPL called him and said his bill was past due. The caller, who knew his account number, said an FPL truck was on its way to cut off his power.
The business owner told the scammer he had paid his bill. The caller then said the payment went to the wrong FPL division and wasn’t received.
Fortunately, the business owner didn’t fall for the scam, but pretended to go along with it to gain information. The caller told him to go to Walgreens and send $498 using a Green Dot MoneyPak card as payment. When he told the scammer he didn’t have time to go there, the scammer said he would take payment by credit card. The FPL customer declined to do that.
The FPL customer reported the incident to FPL, and said he knows of a mom-and-pop company that did give the scammers money. Even if a business has paid its bill, the owner might fear a problem occurred, and doesn’t want to risk power being disconnected.
FPL spokesman Bill Orlove said, “We would never demand credit card information or ask for a prepaid money card as payment over the phone. We would never ask for personal information from a customer unless they initiated the call.”
If customers receive call they think is suspicious, they should hang up and call the number on their bill to speak with an FPL representative.
The report comes as electric, gas and water companies across the U.S. and Canada join together Wednesday to raise awareness about such scams, said Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn.
Wednesday is the inaugural Utilities United Against Scams Day.
Signs of Potential Scam Activity:
- The supposed utility representative becomes angry and tells the customer his or her account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment is not made – usually within less than an hour.
- The caller instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back supposedly to make a payment to their utility.
- The caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.
How Customers Can Protect Themselves:
- Utilities will never ask or require a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
- Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail, or in person.
- Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification included with their regular monthly bill – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.
- If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call the local police then your utility. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.