CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Many families are struggling to pay their power bills and unfortunately, scammers know it.
Recently, scammers have been calling unsuspecting people saying they are with Duke Energy. They tell the person they owe money and that payment is required or else their power will be turned off.
Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke has continuously warned people about Duke Energy impostors, but now he’s worried more customers are going to fall victim because many of them really do owe the company money.
A representative from Duke Energy told Stoogenke that nearly 350 customers in the Charlotte area have reported this scam within the last several weeks. Unfortunately, 15 customers fell for it and paid a total of $8,200 to the scammers.
Typically, the utility company will turn off a customer’s power for nonpayment, but it had stopped that practice during the pandemic. In July, the North Carolina Utilities Commission informed Duke it could return to that practice in September. However, the company waited until October for commercial customers and November for residential customers, to give everyone at least two billing cycles to catch up on their bills.
Scammers count on customers’ fear that they missed a payment, or their confusion about the state of their account.
“I wish we were saying we have no one falling victim to scams anymore, but unfortunately that’s not the case, so we’re going to keep educating our customers on what they should keep their eyes out for,” Duke Energy spokesperson Meghan Musgrave Miles told Stoogenke.
Robin Marlowe told Stoogenke a Duke Energy impostor called her.
“They were telling me my power’s getting ready to get disconnected because of nonpayment, and I said, ‘I know that’s a lie,’” she told Stoogenke. “It would just be nice to know that these kind of people would just go away, but they’re not. They’re here to stay.”
In Marlowe’s case, the scammer also knew where she worked. She said they tried to get her personal account and then her work account. Marlowe said she notified her company’s finance representative.
“They wanted him to pay 1,500-and-some dollars via a card from CVS or Dollar General,” she said. “We all knew that was a scam.”
Stoogenke offer these tips to help spot a scam:
1. Duke Energy will not call you and threaten to turn off your power right away.
2. The company won’t ask you to pay using a prepaid debit card or by wiring money.
3. If you really think someone from Duke Energy has contacted you and you are concerned about the status of your account, hang up and call the utility company directly.
If you need help paying your bill, here are some helpful links: