Watch out for scammers pretending to be from your utility this summer

CONCORD, N.C. — Scammers know it’s the height of summer, and no electricity means no air conditioning.

Action 9 is warning people to watch out for scammers pretending to be with your utility company and threatening to shut off your power immediately if you don’t pay.

Katherine Tracy Pepper of Concord told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke that she recently took over handling the bills for her elderly cousin. She said someone pretending to be with Duke Energy called her and demanded $998.32. She did not realize he was an imposter.

“We were both panicking because … it was one of those days where it was going to be almost 100 (degrees) and she can’t have her power getting shut off,” Pepper said.

She told Stoogenke she tried to pay the scammer using Zelle, but fortunately her bank blocked it. Then the imposter told her to go to convenience stores around town. She isn’t sure why, because by that point, she realized it was scam, so she hung up on him.

“At first, I was really upset. I just felt so taken advantage of,” she said. “And then I start getting angry. I was like, I almost fell for this. She could have fallen for it. Who else out there is falling for this?”

When Pepper found the right number for Duke Energy and called the company, she discovered her cousin didn’t owe any money.

Duke Energy told Stoogenke that fewer customers in Charlotte have fallen for scams this year, but the ones who have lost more money than last year. According to Duke Energy, customers lost $19,889 in scams last year.

Advice from Action 9:

- Remember your utility company will not call and threaten to shut off your power right away.

- It won’t ask you to pay using a prepaid debit card or by wiring money.

- If you think you owe money, hang up and call the utility yourself. If you do call, don’t trust the number on your Caller ID. Call the number on your utility bill.

Customers can report scams to Duke Energy by calling 1-800-521-2232 or by clicking here.

(Watch below: FTC sues Walmart, says retailer should have done more to protect scam victims)