United Power warns members to be cautious and alert after a recent surge in utility scams targeted at small businesses in the United Power service area.
Recent reports include scam attempts at small businesses, but these scams can target everyone – from businesses to homeowners – and the scammers use a variety of techniques to outsmart and swindle members out of their money. Knowing how United Power does business, and staying up-to-date on your account status is your best defense against theses scams.
“These scammers are bold and persistent, and often use intimidation to scare our members,” said Troy Whitmore, United Power Public Affairs Officers. “They are very persuasive, and they react quickly and confidently to the member’s questions. We’ve had scammers who have gone door-to-door threatening to shut off members if they don’t pay in cash immediately, and we’ve had the phone call scams that ask members to pay with a pre-paid credit card. Unfortunately some members make the payment and end up losing their money.”
While the scammers often cast a large net in their calling schemes, they are good at finding individuals or businesses they can exploit. Caller ID provides very little protection, and may actually add to the ruse, with scammers often able to “spoof” the phone number and make it appear as if United Power or another utility provider is actually calling.
Small businesses, which would undoubtedly be affected by having their power shut-off, are a typical target. United Power has had reports from dozens of our business accounts who were threatened with immediate shut off unless they paid whatever the “past due” amount was as stipulated by the scammer. The scammer then requests that the customer purchase a pre-paid Green Dot MoneyPak Card – readily available at most convenience or grocery stores – and “load” the past due amount on the card. Then all you have to do is call the scammer back and give them the number on the back of the card, and like magic your money is gone. The money is untraceable, and there is no way to recover the money. Recently we’ve had several restaurants, retail outlets, and individuals that have been targeted by these scammers, and unfortunately some of them have lost money in the process.
If you are subject to disconnection for past-due electric bills, United Power will NEVER call you in person. A pre-recorded phone message will instruct you to initiate your payment to United Power.
This scam targets apartment complexes, and preys on people who may not speak English well, and the elderly who may be easier to intimidate. They count on the element of surprise and they are not above threatening you. When someone shows up at your door claiming to be from the local utility, they may say they are collecting for a past due bill, need to be paid for replacing some equipment that is missing or damaged, or claim they need access to your home for a repair. They’ll ask for cash immediately and threaten to disconnect your power on the spot.
It’s important to know that United Power will never demand a payment from a customer in the field. Even if you really are behind on your utility payment, we would never come to your home and demand payment. Verifying the details of your account, and the actual amounts you owe are as simple as calling our Member Services department – any time of the day or night.
Under no circumstances should you ever let someone in your home if you don’t have a scheduled appointment. Your safety is our first concern, so if you feel like something is “off” or if you want to verify anything about your account or our employees, simply call us.
It’s important to know that United Power will NEVER visit your home or business and demand immediate payment.
We’re Looking Out for You
Keeping our members and their personal information safe is important to United Power. Behind the scenes we are working hard to make sure our payment systems provide robust protection of your financial and personal information. We don’t share our members information with any third parties. Any informational mailers or promotions come directly from United Power – and are intended to meet our goal of educating our membership. If you have any questions about your account, or have any concerns about a solicitation you may have gotten on the phone or via the internet, don’t hesitate to call us immediately.
United Power Does Not Collect Payment at Your Home or Business
- United Power does not collect utility payments at member homes or businesses. Never give money to people who may be posing as utility workers. If you are not sure about an employee’s identification, ask the employee for identification, or call United Power at 303-659-0551.
- United Power never calls members in person to collect overdue electric bills. Notice of delinquency or disconnection is sent by mail and then United Power will follow-up with our automated phone system. A recorded phone message will instruct you to initiate a payment.
- If you have caller ID, the display will indicate that the call is from United Power. Our employees may occasionally call you to follow up on account status, inform you of work being done in your area, or return your call. If you are ever unsure that you are speaking to a legitimate United Power employee, request that you call them back and dial United Power’s main phone number 303-659-0551.