A phone scam that has been affecting Alabama Power customers as early as this spring is getting more complex and targeting more vulnerable victims.
The scam has prompted Alabama's Attorney General to issue a warning.
The scam works like this: Someone calls an Alabama Power customer and says, "Your bill is due by the end of the day and we're going to cut your power off unless you give us your credit card information or transfer an electronic debit card."
Utilities across the state and the country have seen customers targeted by this since April or May, but most of those were small businesses, until now.
"Yeah, we're concerned because it's targeting our customers, it's targeting customers across the country, it's not just here," Alabama Power spokesman Ike Pigott said.
Just within the last week, Alabama Power has heard from families and residential customers who are now being targeted and the scammers have now figured out a way to what's called "spoof" caller ID. In other words, your caller ID says it's Alabama Power calling when it's really the scammers believed to be working from overseas.
"We're asking people to be particularly wary. If you've got any doubts at all about who you're dealing with, politely hang up the phone and then turn around and give us a call. We don't call our customers and say ‘Hey, your power's due today or we're gonna cut you off.' We have other means of reaching them," Pigott said.
"We're asking our customers to be vigilant, we're asking them to let us know when there are issues, and we're asking them to let their friends and relatives and neighbors know," Pigott added.
Attorney General Luther Strange issued a warning on Monday particularly to customers in the Birmingham and Huntsville areas warning them to stay vigilant and be skeptical.
He says you should never give out payment information over the phone unless it's a call you made and you're sure you know you're talking to a power company employee.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be Alabama Power, hang up and call 1-800-245-2244 to verify.
The AG's office also offered the following tips:
-Ask the person calling for their name and contact information, but do not rely on what they tell you.
-Look up the contact information of the company they claim to represent, verify it for yourself, and contact the company directly.
-If someone says you must act immediately, either to get a prize, to pay a fee, or to stop disconnection of a service, refuse to handle this with them on the telephone, but tell them that you will take care of it by contacting the company directly for yourself.
-If they persist in demanding immediate payment, tell them that you will report the matter to local law enforcement, the company they claim to represent, and the Attorney General's Office.
You can contact AG Strange's Consumer Protection Section by calling toll-free 1-800-392-5658 or through the website at http://ago.alabama.gov/Page-Consumer-Protection.
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