Many electric, water, and natural gas customers throughout the country are being targeted by impostor utility scams each day. Scammers typically use phone, in-person, and online tactics to target customers. One of the most common types of utility scams involves customers receiving unsolicited telephone, electronic, or in-person communications from an individual claiming to be a utility company representative. The scammer warns that the customer’s electric, water, or natural gas service will be disconnected or shut off if the customer fails to make an immediate payment—typically using a reloadable prepaid debit card or other non-traceable form of payment. Scammers often use valid-looking phone numbers, graphics, uniforms, and other forms of fraudulent identification.
Common scam tactics include:
- Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell a customer their utility bill is past due, and service will be disconnected—usually within an hour—if a payment is not made.
- Request for immediate payment: Scammers might instruct a customer to purchase a prepaid card, cryptocurrency, or to send funds via a mobile app to make a bill payment.
- Request for prepaid card or payment through certain mobile apps: Customers are instructed to pay with a prepaid debit card. The impostor asks for the prepaid card’s number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds. More recently, customers have also been instructed to send a payment through a mobile app. Charlotte Water currently does not accept payments through the Cash App, Venmo or Zelle apps. However, customers can make payments on Charlotte Water payment portal by visiting charlottewater.org.
- Personal information: During the COVID-19 crisis, criminals are promising to mail refund checks for over-payments on their accounts if they can confirm their personal data, including birthdays and, in some cases, Social Security numbers.
Tips to Avoid Scams:
- Protect your personal information: Charlotte Water will have your relevant personal and account information. Never provide or confirm personal information such as Social Security number or bank account information.
- Take your time: If someone calls or appears saying you have to pay your bill immediately, tell them you would like to verify that they are a legitimate utility company. Call 311 or 704-336-7600 to verify the contact.
- Always ask questions: Ask the person calling you or visiting you in person to provide you with your account number, your last payment amount, date of payment and his/her employee ID number. If he/she is a legitimate utility representative, this information will be readily accessible.
- Don’t let them inside: Charlotte Water staff have no reason to enter your home. Meters are located outside.
- Pay your utility only: Never make a utility bill payment to anyone calling you on the phone, coming to your door, texting you, or emailing you. Always call your utility company at the number provided on your bill. Charlotte Water (at the City of Charlotte) can be contacted by dialing 311 or 704-336-7600.
For more information visit utilitiesunited.org or charlottewater.org.