Utility customers throughout the country are being targeted by impostor utility scams each day. Scammers typically use phone and online tactics to target our Members. Raising awareness and educating Members about scams is important to Carroll EMC. It is important that Members call us directly at 770-832-3552 to check on the status of their accounts if they are ever unsure about the authenticity of a caller or the identity of a service worker, or if they suspect any fraudulent activity.
CARROLL EMC'S PROCEDURES
Your electric cooperative follows an established procedure when collecting payments from Members. If you receive a call, email or text from someone demanding immediate payment, threatening to disconnect service or claiming over payment, you are likely communicating with a scammer.
Payment Collection Process
- Members receive a bill statement in the mail two (2) weeks prior to the due date.
- Members will receive a friendly reminder in the mail if the bill is past due. A late fee will be assessed.
- Members will receive an automated courtesy call three (3) days prior to their disconnect date. Another automated courtesy call will be made one (1) day prior to disconnection if the payment has still not been made.
- Carroll EMC will never call and pressure Members to make an immediate payment or threaten to disconnect power over the phone.
- Automated courtesy calls are recorded messages; rarely will Carroll EMC representatives make personal "collection" calls. Payments are not required at the time of call, and Carroll EMC never requests Members to make a payment with prepaid cards or wire transfers.
- Carroll EMC Member Services Representatives will never request personal information other than verifying the last four digits of their social security number if a Member calls in.
- Carroll EMC does not make collection calls or terminate service on weekends or holidays.
- If service is going to be terminated, a Carroll EMC Service Technician will knock on the Member's door before turning off service.
- Be aware of incoming calls from suspicious numbers not belonging to Carroll EMC, and do not return those calls if they were missed.
If a Member is concerned about the status of an account, they should call 770-832-3552 (option 3) to speak with a Member Services Representative.
Since Carroll EMC initiates automated collection calls and Members can choose to make a payment over the phone, some phone calls are legitimate. Alternate energy suppliers and solar companies that are trying to conduct business legitimately may also contact Members to offer their services, but Members should never feel obligated to provide their account information. Legitimate companies can provide services without requiring a Member’s account number.
Carroll EMC wants to prevent phone scammers from victimizing Members by simplifying the payment process. Carroll EMC has a number of ways Members can pay their bills that will help prevent confusion.
- Members can pay via our Mobile App, PaySite Kiosk, website, automated phone system, or via e-check with one of our Member Services Representatives during business hours.
- They can use AutoPay or Bank/Credit Card draft to have payments made automatically with a credit card or checking account.
- Members can easily go online and make weekly payments if that helps with their personal budget.
- For more payment options, click here.
Our goal is to make it easy for Members to do business with Carroll EMC, and we offer a variety of payment methods that are free and convenient. We also want our Members to protect themselves from scams, so remember these helpful tips.
Hang up the phone. Delete the email. Throw away the junk mail. One of the most common types of utility scams involves customers receiving unsolicited telephone, electronic or in-person communications from an individual claiming to be a utility company representative.
SIGNS OF SCAM ACTIVITY
- Disconnection Deception: The scammer aggressively tells you that your account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment is not made.
- Immediate Payment: The scammer tells you to quickly purchase a prepaid debit card—widely available at retail stores. Demands for immediate payment over the phone through prepaid cards, gift cards or other unusual methods are scams.
- Request Card Info: The scammer asks you for the prepaid debit card’s number, which grants the caller instant access to the card’s funds.
- Overpayment Trick: The scammer claims you have overpaid your utility bill, and you need to provide personal bank account information or a credit card number to facilitate a refund. If you made an overpayment, Carroll EMC applies that payment as a credit to your account.
- Smishing: The scammer attempts to trick you into sharing personal information through SMS or text message.
Scammers often use valid looking phone numbers and can make the utility appear on the caller I.D. And they sound like really nice people, but they are targeting Members to steal their money. They will even send suspicious emails that include a bill that appears to be from us. Never open email attachments or click links in suspicious emails. Scammers use links and attachments to steal personal information and install malicious software on your computer. You know who and what you owe, so do not let scammers confuse and trick you.
You can always call Carroll EMC at the number printed on your bill, 770-832-3552. Don’t use a phone number that someone gives you on the phone or in a voice mail—it could be fake. Every legitimate company that issues bills will have a way for you to contact them printed on your bill.
TIPS TO AVOID SCAMS
Perhaps the most important safeguard for any computer system is the user. No matter how many protections are in place, careless behavior can still threaten computer security and compromise sensitive information. Here are some ways that you can protect your personal information at home.
- Install anti-virus software from a reputable company on your home computers.
- If you have Wi-Fi in your home, set up a password to prevent neighbors and others from using your Internet access.
- Use strong passwords on any computers and websites that you use. These are any combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using relatives’ names in your passwords, as these are easy to find out. Try Googling yourself to see what information about you is on the web for anyone to see.
- Before downloading any freeware or shareware for your home computer, search for reviews and feedback about the software. Some of these programs have hidden components that gather your personal information while hogging your computer’s memory resources and Internet bandwidth.
Protect Personal Information
- Never provide or confirm personal information (Social Security number, date of birth) or financial information (banking account information, debit or credit card information) to anyone initiating contact with you, whether by phone, in-person or email, claiming to be a utility company representative.
- Never give out information or provide any payment type to any callers or unexpected individual(s) appearing at your home or business claiming to represent your utility.
Take Your Time
- Do not be rushed. If someone calls, appears or emails saying you have to pay your bill immediately to avoid disconnection, tell them you would like to verify that they are a legitimate utility company representative by calling a verified number for the utility company.
- Ask the person calling you or visiting you in person to provide you with your account number, your last payment amount, date of payment, and his/ her employee identification number. If he/she is a legitimate utility representative, this information will be readily accessible.
Report the Scam
- Know that your questions may scare the scammer off. If not, document what the scammer told you, including the name they provided you, the date and time you spoke with them, their caller ID number, their employee identification number, the method and amount of payment they requested, any phone number they requested you call to pay your bill, and any other details that might aid in a possible criminal investigation. If you purchased a prepaid card and provided the card’s number to the scammer for payment, record the prepaid card number as well. Call Carroll EMC immediately to inform us of the scam, and call 911.
During the holiday season, opportunities for charitable scams and false benevolent activities through social media posts are in full swing.
If you feel inclined to help a stranger with their utilities, we encourage you to discuss the account status with a representative from that utility. While they may not discuss details of the account, they can at least confirm the charitable claim made on social media.
We take great honor helping our communities help one another while trying to help reduce the amount of fraud affecting benevolent citizens.
Sources: SMECO & Utilities United Against Scams. Visit Utilities United Against Scams for more information on avoiding scams.