HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today cautioned consumers of an email scam involving their energy bills and reminded consumers to be diligent when weighing offers from door-to-door and telephone solicitors.
“Recent cold weather may have triggered a return of a scam we have seen before involving phony bills and collection notices,” said Commission Chairman Robert F. Powelson. “Customers receive an email saying that they owe money on their electric or gas bill when, in fact, they do not. Some are not even a customer of the supplier. If consumers are enrolled in ebilling with their utility, we remind them to carefully check any email they receive concerning their account to ensure it is from their utility. Contact the utility if you receive anything that looks like a cancellation notice.”
In recent weeks, the PUC has been hearing from utilities, electric generation suppliers and consumers concerning a fraudulent billing scam that targeting both customers and non-customers using a competitive supplier for their electricity.
Chairman Powelson urged customers who receive an unauthorized or suspicious email to not click on any links, which could lead them to a compromised website harboring malware, and to contact the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services at 1-800-692-7380.
“We have found that scams of this nature are more common in cold weather because people are more easily frightened about losing utility service in the winter,” added Chairman Powelson. “We want to ensure that consumers are educated and protected, and they remain confident in the benefits of the competitive marketplace.”
Consumers are also reminded to be diligent when weighing offers for electricity from door-to-door and telephone solicitors. Consumers can file a complaint with the PUC if they encounter a solicitation that makes them uncomfortable. If consumers feel their safety is threatened, they should immediately call their local police.
“Consumers should educate themselves through resources such as www.PAPowerSwitch.com,” Chairman Powelson said. “Any time a consumer is uncomfortable with a sales pitch or an email they receive from a utility or competitive supplier, they should contact us. We want every consumer to have a positive experience.”
The PUC offered the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from these types of scams and protect themselves if deciding to switch energy providers:
- Utilities do not normally come to your door, unless you have called them.
- Ask for identification.
- Call the utility company to verify if they have a salesman in the area – especially if the person claims to be a utility representative needing to get inside your home.
- Supplier representatives are required to prominently display a photo ID showing their name and the name of the supplier for whom they are working.
- Suppliers will only need your account information when you are ready to make the switch.
- Ask for the name of the supplier.
- Ask for the price and other terms and conditions. Know and understand how it compares to your utility price.
- Only share account information over the phone if you are ready to make a switch.
- Do not feel pressured to make any decisions over the phone or immediately.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.pa.gov. Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility. “Like” PAPowerSwitch on Facebook for easy access to information on electric shopping.