S.D. P.U.C. urges consumer caution during Utility Scam Awareness Week

In recognition of Utility Scam Awareness Week, Nov. 16-20, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission highlighted the importance of being able to identify red flags from unknown callers.

PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission reminds customers to be wary of scam calls regarding utility services.

Previously, the most vulnerable groups were usually older and less tech-savvy individuals. However, with increasingly sophisticated scams, the Federal Trade Commission stated in 2019 that millennials in their 20s and 30s were more likely to report losing money to fraud than those 40 or older.

Customers all over the country are targeted by these utility scams on a daily basis. While the scammers methods may vary, in many cases, the scammer will pose as utility company personnel and use false threats to persuade the customer to provide payment or personal identification information.

“Scammers posing as utility company personnel typically threaten service disconnection or a financial penalty hoping to make the target panic and react in haste. That’s why we tell South Dakotans to identify threatening language and an urgent need for action as warning signs,” said P.U.C. Chairman Gary Hanson. “The way a payment is requested can be another red flag. No legitimate utility company will insist on immediate payment specifically through prepaid debit cards or other untraceable methods,” he continued.

Callers posing as tech support, claiming you’ve overpaid your utility bill, offering to restore power more quickly following a big storm, and contacting you through SMS messages that you never signed up for are all common scams to be aware of.

“Learning to identify signs of a scam call and react appropriately are the first two steps to ensuring that you and your loved ones don’t fall victim to scammers. If you receive a suspicious phone call, hang up and contact your utility company using the phone number found on your utility bill. The company can verify if the call was legitimate and advise other customers not to fall for the same scheme,” stated Vice Chairman Chris Nelson.

Utility Scam Awareness Week was created in 2016 by Utilities United Against Scams, a consortium of more than 140 U.S. and Canadian electric, water and natural gas utilities and their respective associations.

To find out more information about avoiding telephone scams, visit the PUC’s website.

Categories: Crime, Local News, South Dakota News