ROANOKE, Va. – People are starting to get smarter when it comes to scams, and that includes the scammers.
According to the Better Business Bureau, a common utility scam is making a comeback in the Roanoke area, but this time with a twist.
Customers say that imposters claiming to be Appalachian Power collection agents are making hostile phone calls, threatening to shut off power in 30 minutes if they are not paid immediately. The scammers then leave a call back number, which is when the BBB says things take 'an interesting turn.'
When customers call the number, it is answered as AEP and provides menu options, including one to pay your bill. After selecting the payment option, the call is answered by someone posing as a representative, and people can be heard in the background, saying they are with AEP.
The person then asks for an account number, but if you don't have it, they're able to identify your address and account from by phone number, making the call seem legitimate.
“A legitimate company will not demand payment over the phone accompanied by threats,” says Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western VA.
BBB offers the following advice:
- Confirm that you are speaking to an AEP representative. If something doesn't seem right, check the phone number for AEP on your own, which is 1-800-956-4237. The number for Dominion Virginia Power is 1-866-366-4357.
- Know your billing history. If a scammer calls and claims you haven't paid a bill, check and make sure. The odds of a scammer having an accurate bill are low.
- Be wary of anyone demanding immediate payment, or payment in a way that is difficult to trace, like Western Union, MoneyGram or GreenDot MoneyPak cash cards.
- Never provide your credit card, debit card, social security, ATM, checking or savings account numbers to anyone who comes to your house, calls or sends an email.
- Don't trust caller ID. Scammers can make any number show up on your caller ID.
- If you think you are the victim of a scam, call your utility company or the BBB at 1-800-533-5501.