Phone scammers posing as utility company staff are tricking people into giving them money via prepaid debit cards.
Here’s how the scam works:
You receive a threatening phone call claiming that you have not paid your electricity bill and power will be cut off to your home or business within minutes if you do not pay up immediately.
The phone scammer will claim that, because the bill is so late, the only way that you will be allowed to pay is via a Green Dot Card or another type of prepaid money card. Pre-paid debit cards can be bought or reloaded with new funds in many different retail locations. The cards let you send money over the phone by quoting a number on the card.
The scammer will instruct the victim to go out and purchase a card and then call back to make the payment. He or she will warn that, if you do not call back within a specified time frame – usually, just a few minutes -, your power supply will be disconnected.
When you purchase the card and call back, the scammer will ask for the number on the card. The money on the card will be transferred to the criminal who can withdraw the card funds as cash and disappear.
These phone scammers can be quite convincing and may use threats and bullying tactics to trick people into complying.
Utility companies may well call you to discuss an overdue bill, but they will offer legitimate payment options and will never claim that you may only pay using a pre-paid debit card.
How to Check if a Call is Legitimate
If you are concerned that a call might be legitimate, here’s how to check:
- Tell the caller you will contact the utility company about the supposed bill and hang up.
- Find a phone number for the utility company via a previous bill, phone directory, or online search. Do not use a phone number provided by the original caller.
- If the utility company has no knowledge of the caller or the supposed outstanding bill, then you will know that the call was a scam.
Green Dot phone scams are increasingly common. The overdue bill ruse is just one of many cover stories that the criminals may use.