The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

February 20, 2013

BBB Warns of Bill Payment Scam Targeting Utility Customers

FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
STAFF AND SUBMITTED

TARBORO — The Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina is warning consumers in North Carolina 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.

"It is important that customers understand the warning signs of this payment scam so that they do not fall victim," said Toby Barfield, president and CEO of BBB serving Eastern North Carolina.

According to BBB, the scam is apparently targeting customers of Duke and Progress Energy. Edgecombe County residents receive their electric service from one of three providers, the Town of Tarboro, City of Rocky Mount or Edgecombe Martin Electric Membership Cooperative.

BBB offers the following tips for utility customers:

• Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any

reason.

• Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who

calls or e-mails 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.

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.

If you should receive such a call, ask for a call back number, hang up and call your utility provider to report the incident at 641-4200 for the Town of Tarboro, 972-1250 for Rocky Mount Public Utilities and (888) 939-9788 for Edgecombe Martin EMC.