BBB warns of utility scam tripping wires
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning consumers and businesses to be on alert for phone calls or visits from people going door to door trying to collect money fraudulently by claiming utility bills are overdue and must be paid with reloadable debit cards, such as Green Dot MoneyPak cards.
The BBB reminds consumers and business owners not to be pressured into making payments on the spot and to contact their utility companies directly if the status of their account is called into question or if they suspect the possibility of fraud.
"This is a particularly bold scam," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "Obviously, it's more important than ever to know who you're dealing with and to verify the information you're given before doing anything."
The BBB is aware of this scheme being attempted recently in the Brooklyn Park area, where unidentified individuals went door to door trying to fraudulently collect utility payments, and in many other regions around the country where this scheme has been attempted both in person and over the phone. People who have questions about the identity of individuals on their doorstep are urged to be cautious and to contact the police if they have concerns about their safety.
In recent years, scammers have been trying to capitalize on people's unfamiliarity with reloadable debit cards such as Green Dot MoneyPak cards. Though these cards themselves are a perfectly legitimate means to transfer money, many people don't realize that once they share the numbers on the back of these cards, anyone with that information can siphon funds from the cards almost instantaneously. In cases like this, any individual who followed the instructions they're given would discover quickly the card they had loaded with funds would be drained of value and they would still owe the utility in question - be it their water, gas, cable or electric bill.
To avoid falling victim to this spreading scam, the BBB advises the following:
Keep in mind that while utility companies may contact customers whose accounts are overdue, they will usually first do so through the mail. They will not send representatives to your door to collect payments, nor will their phone representatives demand that payments be made via a reloadable debit card.
If you have doubts about a caller's identity or suspicions about the purpose of the call, hang up and contact your utility directly to verify any information received.
Be aware that many utility companies offer payment options if your account is in arrears or if you need assistance. Visit their website or call them directly for more details.
Contact the BBB with questions toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.