SHREVEPORT, La., Nov. 19, 2019 – Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), an American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) company, will join Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) to recognize the fourth annual Utility Scam Awareness Day on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Utility Scam Awareness Day is part of the week-long National Scam Awareness Week, an advocacy and awareness campaign focused on educating customers and exposing the tactics used by scammers. This year’s theme is “It Happened to Me, Don’t Let it Happen to You.”
“Scammers are impersonating our employees daily,” said Paul Pratt, director of Customer Services & Marketing. “We encourage customers who receive urgent, demanding phone calls, emails or an unexpected knock on the door from someone claiming to be with SWEPCO or AEP to be cautious. Customers can verify their account information using the SWEPCO mobile app or by calling us at 1-888-216-3523.”
UUAS, a consortium of more than 140 U.S. and Canadian electric, water and natural gas utilities and their respective trade associations,has helped to create awareness of common and new scam tactics and to cease operations of nearly 5,000 toll-free numbers used against utility customers by scammers.
“While our Utilities United Against Scams consortium has made significant progress during our four years of work to educate and protect customers, the criminals targeting our communities continuously adapt and occasionally fool even the most sophisticated customers. While it is heartbreaking to hear from individuals and businesses who have lost money to scammers, we appreciate their willingness to share their experiences so that others might not fall victim,” said Jared Lawrence, vice president of customer operations at Duke Energy, and UUAS founder and executive committee chair.
It is not uncommon for scammers to call, text, or email utility customers asking for immediate payment to avoid service disconnection. As a reminder, utilities will never send a single notification to a customer within one hour of a service interruption, and they never will ask their customers to make payments with a pre-paid debit card, gift card or any form of cryptocurrency.
“Utilities United Against Scams wants to stress that anyone from small business owner to senior citizen can fall victim to a utility imposter scam, in fact roughly 60 percent of scams reported to our members are from business customers,” said UUAS Executive Director Monica Martinez, who was a former regulator at the Michigan Public Service Commission. “Education is the best way to stop these fraudulent scams.”
Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud or who feel threatened during contact with a scammer should contact their local utility company or law enforcement authorities. The Federal Trade Commission’s website also provides additional information about protecting personal information and other information regarding impostor scams.