Utility scam returns to the Gem State

Scammers have been at work again convincing local residents they are with a local power company in hopes of gaining money from customers. Better Business Bureau Northwest &Pacific has received reports of a scammer calling a Rocky Mountain Power customer threatening to shut her power off if her balance wasn’t paid. The impostor instructed her to purchase a money pack card and he would call back to get the information. When he called back, the customer gave him the information. He called back again, claiming new power meters would be put in her neighborhood and she would need to also pay that expense. At that point, the woman became suspicious and called Rocky Mountain Power who informed her she had been scammed.

Unfortunately, this scenario is very common with utility company impostors who often reach out by telephone or knock on your door claiming to be a representative from the local water, electric or gas company. Rocky Mountain Power says when they contact customers they will always have your account number, and their representatives will not demand immediate payment. They also remind their clients that all their employees wear identification badges and all company vehicles are marked with their logo.

Con-artists have also been known to use other tricks to prey on their victims. In another set-up, a “representative” appears at your door in a convincing looking work uniform claiming that the electric meter is not working properly and must be immediately replaced — at your expense. What makes this scam so scary is that their targets often grant scammers access inside their home. Now the scammer has a good look at your house and can easily walk out with your valuables.

These schemes may also involve promises of energy discounts with the goal of getting your personal banking information. Everyone loves a discount so it’s also the perfect way for them to get access to your account details needed to switch you to another utility provider without your consent. This is an illegal practice known as “slamming.”

Here are a few ways to easily spot this scam:

Restrictive payment methods. If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, this is a huge warning sign. Your utility company will accept a check or credit card. It is also easier to dispute the charges when paying by check or credit card.

Pressure to pay immediately. If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative.

Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of a scam should contact local law enforcement and report it to BBB Scam Tracker, bbb.org/scamtracker.

Jeremy Johnson is the east Idaho marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau, serving the Northwest &Pacific. Contact her at by emailing jeremy.johnson@thebbb.org.

Jeremy Johnson is the east Idaho marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau, serving the Northwest & Pacific. Contact her at by emailing jeremy.johnson@thebbb.org.