If you’ve ever received a call from someone claiming that your utility or energy bill is overdue and if you don’t pay now, your power, heat or water will be turned off, you’re not alone. Nobody wants to be left in the cold or in the dark. Scammers know this and today, more than ever, they’re posing as utility/energy company employees to trick you into providing money, personal or financial information.
How do you know if it’s a scam?
Scam artists are super aggressive, oftentimes stating a payment must be made immediately — and almost always in a manner not used by reputable service providers. When you are asked to pay using pre-paid debit cards (like Green Dot), gift cards, Western Union wire transfer, bitcoin, or mobile apps like Cash App, Venmo or Zelle, your radar should go off immediately.
At Crystal Flash, for example, if/when our team calls you, we will always identify ourselves by name and that we are from Crystal Flash, rather than “your energy provider”. We may offer you the option to pay an amount due, but we’ll never demand immediate payment over the phone.
Our team will also never do the following:
- Solicit personal information in the name of signing you up for a government program that claims to reduce energy bills.
- Make unannounced visits to collect a bill. Late payment notices are almost always mailed USPS and provide steps to restore the account to good standing.
- Show up at your home unannounced to investigate a leak or do a free audit for energy efficiency.
- Request your driver’s license number, passwords, date-of-birth, financial information and/or social security number (unless processing a credit application). Instead, our customers are asked to validate account information such as billing zip code, home address, or the phone number associated with the account.
- Claim you are entitled to a refund or rebate and ask for bank account or credit card information to make the alleged refund.
- Use aggressive tactics to get into your home. Crystal Flash requires our employee owners to wear a company identification badge that will be produced upon request.
Scammers can be very convincing and often target those who are most vulnerable, including senior citizens and low-income communities. However, with the right information, consumers can learn to detect and report these predatory scams.
What can you do? Here are some tips!
Scammers are now able to create authentic looking 800 numbers which appear on your phone display. Some will even “spoof” a phone number with your local area code to appear more authentic. The number, if called back, will direct you to an imposter acting as a company representative at a company you are familiar with. Instead of dialing the number provided by the caller, locate contact information for that company on a recent statement and call to confirm if they tried to contact you.
If a scammer threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service without any prior notification, hang up the phone, delete the email, or shut the door. Customers with delinquent accounts will receive an advance disconnection notification, typically by mail. To be safe, hang up and call your provider directly from a phone number available on their website or monthly statement.
If you are being pressured to pay immediately using a specific payment method, that’s likely a scam. As mentioned earlier, never purchase or provide a pre-paid card, send money through a wire transfer service like Western Union, or send money through a mobile app to avoid disconnection or shutoff. Companies like Crystal Flash will offer a variety of legitimate ways to pay a bill including online payment, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail-in or by drop box at an authorized location.
Create an online account with your home heating provider and utilities. At my.crystalflash.com, for example, customers securely log in to check their balance and payment history, sign up for automatic/recurring payments, paperless billing and other helpful services.
How to report a suspected scam
If you suspect you have been contacted by a utility imposter or other scammer, call the number for that service provider listed on your statement to speak to a customer service representative. They can confirm the status of your account, make appropriate arrangements to protect your account, and assist you with a payment plan if necessary.
If you’ve mistakenly provided bank account or credit card information to someone you suspect might have been an imposter, call your bank or credit card company immediately. Consumers who feel threatened during contact with a suspected imposter should always contact local law enforcement.
If you ever have an interaction with someone claiming to work for Crystal Flash that makes you feel uncomfortable, please call us at 800-875-4851 and we can quickly verify if the person is an indeed one of our employee owners and therefore authorized to safely assist you. All Crystal Flash service personnel wear attire branded with the company’s logo and undergo complete background checks as a condition of employment.
Lastly, to report a scam, file a complaint or get additional information, contact the Michigan Department of Attorney General:
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form