Empowering Communities

5 Ways to Tell Scammers to Scram

August 9, 2016

Another day, another scam. Most of us are pretty familiar with email scams asking for our credit card to stake claim to a long-lost fortune. Most of us quickly click “delete” on these emails.

But what if somebody familiar knocks on your door or calls you on the phone? What if it’s a friendly looking man or woman claiming to be from ComEd asking you for immediate payment to prevent your electricity from being shut off? Clicking delete is not an option – or is it?

Over the past several years, there has been a national uptick in scam artists claiming to be energy company workers, but ComEd, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas have joined forces to warn Illinois customers to be on alert for these scam artists. They are reminding customers that representatives from their company always carry proper identification and never ask customers for cash or personal financial information.

With the door-to-door scams, someone impersonating a utility worker will visit customers’ homes looking to get personal and/or account information, and in some cases attempt to enter the customer’s home.

Variations of the phone scam include stories that the customer’s billing cycle has changed and payment is needed immediately; the account is past due and immediate payment is required to avoid disconnection of service; or that the customer’s previous payments were not accepted or processed. In those cases, the scammers instruct customers to buy a prepaid credit card and direct them to call back with the personal identification number (PIN).

“Fighting scams and rip-offs requires a unified effort from the entire community,” Citizens Utility Board Executive Director David Kolata said. “We’re asking everybody to be their own best consumer advocates. Tell your neighbors to be skeptical anytime a person calls or knocks on the door claiming to be from the electric or gas company. Utility workers will never go door-to-door or call you seeking personal financial information.”

Customers can “delete” these scammers by taking a few precautions:

  1. Never provide social security or personal information to anyone initiating contact with you claiming to be a utility representative or requesting you to send money to another person or entity other than your local utility providers.
  2. Always ask to see a company photo ID before allowing any utility worker into your home or business.
  3. When in doubt, check it out. Be skeptical of individuals wearing clothing with old or defaced company logos. If you have any doubts, ask to see a company photo ID.
  4. Never make payment for services to anyone coming to the door.
  5. If customers have concerns about the status of their account, they can also contact their local utility providers:
    • ComEd 1-800-EDISON1
    • Nicor Gas 1-888-NICOR4U
    • Peoples Gas 866-556-6001
    • North Shore Gas 866-556-6004

Anyone who believes he or she has been a target of a phone scam is urged to contact the Illinois Attorney General’s office toll free at 1-800-386-5438 (TTY 1-800-964-3013) or visit the Illinois Attorney General’s website and click “Protecting Consumers.”