Wisconsin Public Service and Oconto Electric Cooperative are warning their customers that a scam has been reported in which the caller states the customer must pay their power bill over the phone with a credit card or the customer will be immediately disconnected.
Last week, a Wisconsin Public Service customer was contacted from a 414 area code. The caller said they were with Oconto Electric Cooperative and that they would be coming out to disconnect power as the customer was behind in paying his bills. The customer knew that he was not delinquent and was not an Oconto Electric customer. He contacted both utilities to report the scam.
The Green Bay Police are aware of these scams and are investigating.
There have also been reports that individuals have posed as Wisconsin Public Service employees and asked to gain access to their property.
Wisconsin Public Service field employees have company identification, wear Wisconsin Public Service logo'd apparel and will have clearly marked utility vehicles when at a customer's home.
Wisconsin Public Service wants to remind the public again that the utility would not ask you to purchase a prepaid card to pay your bill over the phone nor will the utility ask a customer to meet with them regarding paying a bill. It's field representatives are not authorized to accept payments.
While Oconto Electric Cooperative does call members who are delinquent and eligible to be disconnected for non-payment, OEC customers are encouraged to go to the cooperative's website and pay online as a safe and secure way to pay their bills immediately and avoid being disconnected.
Both utilities stress that if anyone calls stating they are representing a utility, write down the phone number and a contact name, hang up and call the utility company to verify the information.
At that time the utility call handler can help with billing questions or verify if work is being done in an area by the utility. Also report any phone calls that cannot be verified by a utility either to the police or to the utility.
Also, customers should report this scam attempt to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection 608-224-4953 or 800-422-7128 who is tracking all statewide scam attempts.
Experts also offer the following advice to prevent scams:
- If you get an email, text message or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply or click on any links.
- If you are concerned about your financial accounts, contact your institution using a telephone number you know to be genuine or visit the institution in person. You can confirm information regarding financial institutions by contacting the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation at 1-877-999-6442 or checking online at www.michigan.gov/ofir.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly.
- Don't email personal or financial information.
- Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges.
- Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
- Ask the caller for his name, company, street address, and telephone number.
- Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written "validation notice" through the U.S. mail.