PINEVILLE, La. – Nov. 18, 2020 – Today is Utility Scam Awareness Day, and Cleco is joining other utilities across the nation to stop scams against customers and raise awareness. Utility Scam Awareness Day is part of a week-long annual international campaign hosted by Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), from Nov. 16-20, to educate customers. UUAS, a consortium of more than 145 U.S. and Canadian electric, water and natural gas utilities, works to inform customers about common scams and new scam tactics. Through its work and with the help of customer reporting, UUAS has succeeded in taking nearly 9,500 toll-free numbers used by scammers against utility customers out of operation. “Through UUAS, we can learn and share best practices with a goal of stopping scams and protecting our customers against scammers,” said Ron Smith, director of customer experience. “We want customers to be aware of the types of threats that are out there and to remember that we all could be targeted at any time.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have increased calls, texts, emails and in-person tactics and are contacting utility customers asking for immediate payment to avoid service disconnection. “It is no surprise that scammers have been seeking to exploit the heightened anxiety of people coping with the pandemic,” said UUAS Founder and Executive Committee Chairman Jared Lawrence. “I am proud to report that UUAS’ education efforts and utilities’ well-publicized customer testimonials have prevented a drastic increase in victims. However, the relentless attempts by these criminals make it clear that we must continue to actively work to protect our customers and to keep scammers from casting confusion on our pandemic recovery messages.” How Cleco customers can protect themselves:
Ø Slow down Scammers typically try to rush customers and will ask for personal information and immediate payment. Remember the following:
· Cleco will never ask customers for their personal information over the phone.
· Cleco will never call customers to demand immediate payment or ask customers to buy a pre-paid card or gift card to pay their bill and then threaten to disconnect their service.
Ø Verify Scammers often pose as utility company employees. If customers receive a phone call, text
message, email or knock at the door, they should contact Cleco directly to verify the information using one of the following communication channels:
· Phone: 1-800-622-6537 · Online: www.cleco.com (Contact Us page) or the company’s online customer information system, MyAccount
· Social media: Facebook page at @ClecoPower
· In-Person: Local customer service office
Ø Stop before you act Think about the information the caller or potential scammer is asking of you. If it seems unsafe or suspicious, rethink the situation and ask questions.
Common utility scams:
· Disconnection Deception Scammers call threatening disconnection of your service unless you make an immediate payment with a pre-paid card.
· Overpayment Tactic Scammers call claiming you overpaid your bill, and you need to provide your personal bank account information or a credit card number to facilitate a refund.
· Vacate Your Home Scammers claim there is a need to replace your meter or other equipment, and you must leave your home for 72 hours.
· Power Restoration Charge Scammers call offering to restore your electricity more quickly for a fee after a severe storm.
· Identification Attack Rather than directing victims to call a 1-800 number, the scammers direct callers to press 1 to collect more data in an attempt to get your personal information.
Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened, should contact Cleco and local law enforcement authorities.