CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning consumers about utility scams and urging them to be wary of imposters who may threaten to shutoff service.
A release from the Attorney General’s Office stated that several public utilities have suspended terminations for nonpayment during the coronavirus pandemic. The release stated that the state’s largest utilities including American Electric Power, First Energy, Dominion Energy and West Virginia American Water, among others, have announced a suspension of utility shutoffs as customers cope with the fallout from the pandemic.
The release stated that the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has received numerous reports in the last week of impostors using the name of recognizable utilities and threatening to shutoff service in order to steal the consumer’s money or personal, identifiable information. One customer lost $2,500, according to the release.
“I applaud the Public Service Commission and every utility that agrees to suspend shutoff notifications during this perilous time,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “The coronavirus continues to impact every aspect of life, and acts of generosity such as this provide some peace of mind to consumers across West Virginia. Anyone receiving a shutoff notice should contact their provider to ensure it is not a scam.”
The release stated that the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline (1-800-368-8808) remains open to anyone wishing to report scams, price gouging or other manners by which scammers may wish to take advantage of consumers during the pandemic. Written complaints can also be filed online here.
The Attorney General’s Office said that utility scams typically demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection if the targeted consumer fails to cooperate or questions the caller’s legitimacy. According to the release, such calls typically come from an imposter who claims to represent a familiar utility, which could be especially true during the coronavirus pandemic.
The release warned that consumers should be wary of any caller who gives inadequate notice of an impending disconnection or interruption of service and/or demands prepaid debit cards, such as Green Dot cards, as a form of payment.
The release stated that in all instances, consumers should be cautious with any unsolicited email, phone call or other form of communication. Consumers should never share personally identifiable, financial or otherwise sensitive data or agree to send cash, wire money or provide numbers associated with a credit/debit card, gift card or bank account without verifying the legitimacy of the recipient, according to the release..