Westborough – Gas and electric utility companies across the United States and Canada are joining forces to protect customers from a long-running scam targeting customers of utility service providers.
The Utilities United Against Scams collaboration designated November 16th as “Utilities United Against Scams Day.” This day supported by a week-long campaign with content focused on exposing the tricks scammers use to steal money from customers, and how customers can protect themselves.
The collaboration encourages the public to be aware of and share these messages to help guard against scam activity.
“Unfortunately, the busy holiday season is the time of year when customers are most vulnerable to scams; whether through phone calls, emails, or knocks on the door. If you are concerned about suspicious account activity and are unsure about the legitimacy of any email, phone call, program or offer claiming to be affiliated with Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, please call our Customer Service Center at 800-688-6160,” advises Steve Bryant, President of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts.
Under this particular scam, a customer receives an unsolicited phone call from an individual who falsely claims to be a Columbia Gas of Massachusetts representative. The scammer warns that Columbia Gas of Massachusetts will disconnect the customer’s gas service if the customer fails to make a payment – usually within a short timeframe. Some of these scammers have tried to use caller ID spoofing to replicate Columbia Gas of Massachusetts’ customer service number.
Red flags for scam activity
- The thief becomes angry and tells the customer his or her account is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment isn’t made – usually within less than an hour.
- The thief instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment. The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.
How to protect yourself
- Columbia Gas of Massachusetts never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
- Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person. Visit www.ColumbiaGasMA to see a list of authorized payment agents.
- Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification with the regular monthly billing – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.
- If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call the local police then Columbia Gas of Massachusetts at 800-688-6160. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.
“Columbia Gas of Massachusetts continues to enhance its efforts to educate the public. Communications aimed to combat scammers and protect customers include bill messages and alerts, online content, public service announcements, and messaging on social media. Collaborative efforts with law enforcement, utilities and the media have proved to be beneficial in alerting the public when scams surface in our area. Be alert and stay safe during this busy time of year,” added Steve Bryant.
For more information visit ColumbiaGasMA.com or follow Columbia Gas of Massachusetts on Twitter and Facebook.