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The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers in N.C. and S.C. about a bill payment scam that is targeting utility customers.
Individuals and businesses have reported receiving telephone calls that claim their electricity will be turned off within hours unless they make an immediate payment by a prepaid debit card, such as the Green Dot Money Card available at WalMart.
"This scam is targeting Duke Energy customers today. Tomorrow, scammers could target Time Warner Cable customers or Piedmont Natural Gas customers," said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. "That's why it is important to increase awareness about payment scams in general so that customers understand the red flags and know what to do."
Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.
Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who calls or emails you.
Never wire money or provide debit or credit card numbers to someone you do not know.
Call the number on your utility company bill to find out if there is a problem with your account.
"Since November, we've received reports from about 80 customers who have been contacted by these scam artists. Many of the victims are small business owners," said Tom Cunningham, Duke Energy payments manager.
Duke Energy offers customers a number of payment options, including online, by phone, by automatic bank draft, by mail or in person.
According to Cunningham, Duke Energy never contacts customers to demand a prepaid debit card payment to avoid an immediate service disconnection. "We urge all of our customers to hang up and contact us directly if they receive such a scam call," added Cunningham.
Contact numbers in N.C. and S.C. include:
Duke Energy Carolinas Customers – 800-777-9898
Progress Energy Carolinas Customers – 800-452-2777
For more information about scams, please visit BBB.