By Alec Johnson
Duke Energy Indiana customers are warned to be vigilant after an increase in customer reports of a utility bill payment scam.
The scam works when an individual, who claims to be a Duke Energy employee, makes an unsolicited phone call to a customer and claims that their service will be disconnected unless the customer makes an immediate payment, usually within an hour.
The caller then tells the customer to buy a prepaid debit card, which is widely available at retail stores, and instructs the customer to call back to supposedly pay Duke Energy.
Once the call back is made, the caller asks for the prepaid debit card’s receipt number and PIN number, giving them access to the funds on the card and the ability to drain its balance.
Duke Energy Indiana spokesman Lew Middleton said it’s important for customers to understand that a legitimate Duke Energy employee would never ask or require customers with delinquent accounts to buy prepaid debit cards to prevent service disconnection. According to its website, Duke Energy states payments can also be made online, by phone, by automatic bank draft, by mail or in person.
“We give people advance disconnect notification with their regular monthly billing. We never give a notification just one hour before disconnection,” Middleton said.
Another scam that Duke Energy’s website mentions is a third-party payment scam. Callers claiming to be Duke Energy employees are telling customers that they can pay customers’ account balances for a cash fee. The site goes on to say that no one from Duke Energy will ever offer to pay those balances in exchange for a fee.
The only fees charged by Duke, according to its website, are convenience fees for payments using the automated phone system and one-time payments made through the website. They do not charge customers extra fees for paying bills by mail, at authorized pay locations or through online banking services.
Middleton said that he did not hear any details about the third payment party scam. He said Duke Energy is working to raise awareness among its customers about the phone scam, and that they are taking proactive steps to do so.
“In the past couple days, we have begun to make some proactive outreach phone calls to mostly our small and medium sized business customers just to alert them about the fact that this scam is going on, and to be aware about that,” Middleton said.
More information about the scams can be found at this link, or by calling Duke Energy directly at 1-800-521-2232. The number can also be called to verify whether someone is a legitimate Duke Energy employee. They advise customers to call police immediately if they think the person is an imposter.