Around holiday time it seems that scammers come out of the woodwork. News stories report the same this year. So be on alert, for yourself, and if you have aging relatives, help them out, too.

With the holiday season and the added COVID stress, thieves can be especially creative. They trade on consumer fear, trying to make consumers drop their guard and give out personal information.

A common tactic is to threaten a consumer that power will be cut off. Calls are aggressive. They may demand immediate action.

Don’t fall for it. Utility reps will always be courteous. They will never make calls that threaten customers.

Here’s a creative scammer approach reported earlier this year in South Carolina: A caller said a consumer must pay for a smart electric meter or the power will be stopped. Since there has been news stories about smart meters some customers can fall victim to this.

There are plenty of tips about stopping scammers from reliable sources. The SC Co-ops magazine Carolina Country has these top tips, check the article for more:

  • Hang Up on Calls from Crooks: Hang up if you receive a call demanding immediate payment of a utility bill to avoid disconnection or shutoff. Never be fooled by a phony caller ID; never return a call to the call-back phone number provided by an unknown caller; and never provide any payment or personal information to a caller you do not know.
  • Keep Cell Phones Safe: Do not reply to text messages or click on links you receive from people you do not know. Never install apps from text messages, and if you have any doubt about a text message, exercise caution and do not open it.

Advice from Dominion Energy’s website

The item about phones is interesting. A Fox Carolina news story said to watch out for this:

  • Mobile banking apps: Customers are instructed to send immediate payment through a mobile app. Duke Energy does not accept payments through the Cash App, Venmo or Zelle apps.

Check Duke Energy’s page about utility scams, which says, “Remember: If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email or shut the door. Contact the utility immediately at the number on the most recent monthly bill or on the utility’s official website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers feel they are in physical danger, they should call 911.”