Avoiding Opportunistic Utility Scams

Often emergency events can provide scammers an opportunity to make money, especially in the utility sector. In the past, during peak times of events such as hurricanes, earthquakes or other natural disasters, scammers have posed as utility companies, on the phone and in person, threatening shutoffs in order to get vulnerable parties to pay up. During the current public health emergency, the emotions that these imposters play upon are only heightened.

Given the importance of personal hygiene in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, American Water has reconnected water service for customers who previously had water turned off due to non-payment. But you may still be misled into believing these scammers. So, how can you prevent falling victim to a scam? Now, more than ever, it’s important to make sure you know if that a call or email is really coming from your utility company. Below are some tips to help avoid scams, fraud and protect your personal data during a crisis and beyond.

  1. Always verify. This is an easy but extremely essential security measure. When you have any doubt about an incoming phone call or email, STOP the communication and contact your utility company through its customer service number to verify that the outreach was genuine. 
  2. Be skeptical. Whether it’s a phone call, text message, email or person standing at your door, continue to ask probing questions and safeguard your information. Don’t provide any information, whether financial or personal, until you verify who you are talking to.
  3. Remain calm. Scammers feed off panic. One of the most common schemes is claiming customers are past due on bills and at risk of losing service if payment isn’t made, often immediately. Such insistence on immediate payment can be terrifying, but it is also a sign of fraud. If you are worried, hang up the phone and call your utility company to verify.
  4. Be aware of common scams. It is most likely a scam if someone claims to be from your utility company and is doing one or all of the following: (1) demanding past-due payment to avoid service shutoff; (2) asking to verify personal information and; (3) specifically requesting payment via prepaid debit cards or wire transfers.
  5. No appointment, no way. Unless you scheduled a visit through one of your utility company’s official communication lines, do not let anyone claiming to be a utility employee into your home. Ask for identification, close your door and call your utility company.

American Water wants to protect its customers against fraud and scams. By providing these tips, we hope to not only help you avoid scammers, but also help bolster your sense of security during this difficult time. We work hard every day to deliver clean, safe, reliable, and affordable water services because our customers deserve nothing less.

Stay healthy and stay safe.