WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a utility bill scam, which involves a “new twist” scammers are using to get money.
“Imagine receiving a phone call from your utility company saying they’re about to cut off your electricity. The caller ID looks like it might be a legitimate phone number, but you know you’ve paid your bill,” says the FTC. “The caller says, ‘I can stop this, but only if you pay me.’”
Though the scenario may seem standard, the FTC is warning small-business owners of a new scam that asks for them to pay their utility bill via prepaid debit cards like GreenDot, or using PayPal.
“Scammers using re-loadable debit cards, gift cards or PayPal is not new, but it’s growing,” says the FTC. “It lets them get your money in a way that you’ll never get back.”
Scammers are able to use computers to mask their phone numbers, “making it look like they’re calling from one place, when, in fact, they’re someplace else,” the FTC explains.
“If you get a call, e-mail, text, or even a visit from someone telling you to make a payment via PayPal, or to buy a GreenDot card or gift card, it’s probably a scam.”
Consumers are advised to call their utility company on the phone number that appears on their bill, describe what happened and to report the incident to the FTC online, or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.