January 29, 2014
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned Ohioans to beware of unexpected email messages that appear to be utility bills.
In the last two weeks, the Attorney General’s Office has received more than 30 reports of utility bill email scams from consumers across Ohio.
“With bitterly cold temperatures affecting the state, you might expect your utility bill to be higher than usual,” Attorney General DeWine said. “But if you’re receiving unexpected utility bills from a company that’s not your utility company, it’s likely a scam. Don’t respond to the message and don’t make a payment unless you have proof you owe the money.”
In a typical variation of the scam, a consumer receives an email message claiming to be from PG&E, a west coast utility company, or another out-of-state utility company. The message often claims the consumer owes $344 or $559 and it may contain a link to view the consumer’s account or most recent statement. Consumers should not click on these links.
To protect themselves, consumers should follow these tips:
Don’t respond to unexpected email messages from senders you don’t know. A scam email may look very similar to one from a legitimate business.
Don’t click on links or open attachments. Doing so could put malware on your computer.
Copy and paste the email’s first few sentences into an Internet search engine and add the word “scam.” The results may indicate whether others have reported similar email messages.
Skim the email for misspelled words or grammatical errors. Because email scams sometimes originate outside the United States, errors could signal a scam.
Designate unwanted email as junk before deleting it so future messages from that sender are routed to your junk mailbox.
When in doubt, call your utility company using a number you know to be legitimate, such as a number on your most recent statement.
Know your rights. During the heating season (Nov. 1 through April 15), natural gas and electric companies generally must give you 24 days’ notice before disconnecting your service. Contact the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, www.puco.ohio.gov, to learn more and to compare electric or natural gas offers in your region.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.